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Pet Advice

Helpful info for pet owners

Whether you are a first-time pet owner or have had pets all your life, the advice we are given on how to best look after our furry friends is always changing and improving. Here you can find some answers to the most common questions we get asked from vaccinating to neutering.

Flea Treatment

At Taylor Vets we will discuss with you the range of products to find one that fits best for your pet.

Flea infestations used to be a problem which was confined to the summer months. However, due to the use of central heating, fleas are now a year-round nuisance. Fleas can cause a number of problems for your pet including severe discomfort, allergic skin disease, transmission of tapeworm infections and anaemia (especially in kittens and puppies). Routine preventative treatment is critical –a single flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, so a full-blown infestation can take hold very rapidly if your pet or home are left unprotected.
Many Flea treatments for your pets don't stop fleas from jumping onto your animal from the environment; however any fleas that do jump on will be killed within 24 hours. A female adult flea can lay up to 1500 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs are then shed from the pet's fur into the environment like a salt shaker.
Once the eggs have hatched into larvae, they crawl away from bright light into dark protected spaces. Once they have happily hidden themselves away they begin to spin a cocoon, inside which the new flea develops. This is now a flea pupa and can remain dormant for up to a year.

How to Tackle Fleas at Home

Spray Bottle

Environmental sprays can be used to kill fleas that may be present in your home. A good quality household spray contains active ingredients that kill adult fleas for up to 2 months and eradicate flea eggs and larvae for up to 12 months. Please read instructions on packaging carefully.

Flea-fighting Tricks

Unfortunately, there is no insecticidal product that kills flea pupa as they are completely protected in their cosy cocoon. Don't despair, though these tricks will help fool the pupae to hatch out into adult fleas, which will either be killed when they hop onto your treated pet or by the residual effects of the household spray in the environment.

  • Wash your pets bedding regularly, preferably on a high wash, 60 degrees Celsius or higher
  • When you begin to tackle the environmental challenge of fleas, firstly ensure that your house is warm and humid, as these are factors which encourage pupae to hatch
  • Vigorously vacuum for 7 consecutive days, paying particular attention to dark corners and under furniture. Vibration is another stimulus that forces pupae to hatch into adult fleas. You can also use your household spray to spray your vacuum bag (if you have one). This ensures any fleas captured in the bag will be killed
  • Don't deny your pet access to your house. Your pet acts as the greatest stimulant for the pupae to hatch, providing warmth, carbon dioxide and vibrations. And don't worry about your pet, as long as they have been treated regularly with a good quality flea treatment, any newly emerged fleas that do jump on will be dead within 24 hours

The life cycle of a Flea

The flea life cycle has 4 stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult flea. The entire cycle, from egg to adult flea, is complete in 12 - 22 days when temperature and humidity conditions are ideal, but more commonly takes 3 - 4 weeks. Surprisingly, only approximately 5% of a flea infestation is made up of adult fleas on your pet, whereas 95% is in your home as eggs, larvae and pupae. This means that to prevent and control flea infestations you need to treat both your pet AND the environment.

Worm Prevention

Dogs, Cats and Rabbits all require regular worming to keep them happy and healthy. At Taylor Vets we to try to advise on the best worming regime for your individual pet.


We worm dogs against Lung Worm, Round Worm, Tape Worm, Hook Worm, and Whip Worm.
Most worms are picked up through ingestion in one form or another and can affect dogs of all ages.
Worming puppies is very important, to ensure that worms are killed that they may have received from their mother whilst in the womb or via milk.
There is a range of worms that can make your dog very ill and can even cause fatal diseases. They can even pass on illnesses that can harm us or our families.
There is a range of different types of worming treatments including spot-on, tablets or granules. Our staff can discuss with you, your dog’s individual needs to make sure they are on the best product for them.
The following can affect what product we advise for your pet: 

  • Does your dog like the taste of slugs and snails?
  • Do they eat other dog’s poo?
  • Do you have small children in the house?
  • What other pets do you have?
  • Are there foxes in the area? 

We recommend that dogs are wormed at least every 3 months and monthly for lung worm. In most cases it is best to worm every month.

Roundworms (Toxocara) are the most prevalent parasites in UK pets. Symptoms of roundworm can include a pot belly, poor coat and diarrhoea, but often there are no outward signs. This parasite can also affect humans and has been linked to cases of asthma and blindness in extreme cases.

Lungworm (Angiostrongylus Vasorum) is a potentially life-threatening parasite in dogs caused by swallowing infected slugs and snails.  Lungworm resides in the heart and pulmonary blood vessels and can be fatal to dogs.  Symptoms include coughing, lethargy, bleeding, problem weight loss and even seizures. Clinical signs can present within 40 days post ingestion of slugs and snails.


Your cats lifestyle will have a big effect on what type of worming treatment we recommend as outdoor cats that also hunt are at greater risk of catching worms. We would recommend worming your cat at least every 3 months, but for high risk cats we would recommend monthly worming treatments.
The most common intestinal worms that cats get are called roundworms and tapeworms. Many infected cats do not show signs of having worms; however, heavy burdens of worms can cause weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea, irritation around the anus and failure to thrive.
As tableting cats can be very tricky we also stock a range of spot-on treatments to suit all needs.


Like all mammals rabbits are susceptible to a variety of parasites. The reality though is that in domesticated rabbits the chance getting worms is quite low.

This is because most pet rabbits are kept in very small numbers, are well housed and kept clean. This means that exposure to the worm eggs (that are typically found in the droppings of infected wild rabbits) is normally low.

However - if you let your rabbit run free in your garden, then you should definitely consider worming several times a year to cover your pet, as there could well have been wild rabbits in your garden too.
Top Tips For Rabbit Owners:

  • Avoid feeding your pet rabbit greens collected from areas where wild rabbits roam
  • Keep everything very clean - good hygiene will reduce the risk of your rabbit eating worm eggs from contaminated food and water bowls
  • Avoid sitting rabbit cages on top of each other. This will prevent urine and droppings falling from the top cage into the ones below
  • If you do let your rabbit run outside then we recommend that you worm your rabbit 4 times a year.
  • Always worm a new rabbit before introducing them to other rabbits in your family


Vaccinating your pet is very important to keep them happy and healthy.

At Taylor Vets, we give an annual health check with each booster to check teeth, eyes, ears, skin, heart, lungs and abdomen are in full working order.

Dog Vaccinations

Puppies require two vaccinations which protects them against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Para Influenza and 2 types of Leptospirosis.
The first vaccination can be given as early as 7 weeks old and the second vaccine is given at least 2 weeks after the first and your puppy must be at least 10 weeks old.

To ensure your puppy is fully protected they can mix with other dogs 2 weeks after their second vaccine. Dogs are then given an annual booster to keep these vaccines topped up.
A separate vaccine can be given to dogs to protect against Kennel Cough. Although this vaccine is not 100% protective, we do recommend it if your dog regularly socialises with other dogs e.g goes with a dog walker, dog sitters or is going in kennels.
A rabies vaccine can also be administered, these are usually given if you are taking your dog abroad with you. Please see the DEFRA Website for the latest advice on travelling abroad with your pet.

Vaccination antibody levels testing is available. We use an independent lab for reliable and trusted results. Please ask at reception for details.  

The duration of antibodies for different disease varies depending on whether the disease is caused by a bacteria or virus. A dead or live vaccine can also influence the immune response.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease associated with water contaminated by rat's urine. Leptospirosis causes liver and kidney failure and can also affect people (Weil's disease). Consequently, a dead vaccine is used in dogs to avoid the risk of spread. We advise an annual vaccine as the antibodies drop significantly after 6 month post vaccination.

Antibodies against the viral disease of Distemper and Parvovirus can last up to 3 years. The vaccines used contain live virus parts to replicate the disease. Live vaccines usually stimulate a stronger immune response.

Hepatitis has recently been confirmed in Scottish foxes, thereby increasing the risk of exposure.

To avoid over vaccination after an initial primary vaccination course, we rotate the vaccine course depending on an environmental risk and vaccine history.

Please contact us for further information.

Cat Vaccinations

Kittens are vaccinated against Infectious Enteritis and Cat Flu and if they are going to be an outdoor cat they will also be vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia.
Kittens can get their first vaccine from 10 weeks old and are given the second vaccine 3 weeks after the first, they can then go out 1 week after the second vaccine. We would recommend not letting cats outside until they are neutered. Cats will then get an annual booster to keep these vaccines topped up.

Rabbit Vaccinations 

Rabbits should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Both are diseases found throughout the UK and can be fatal to unvaccinated rabbits. Both outdoor AND indoor rabbits are at risk. RVHD in particular, is highly infectious and contagious.  It is an airborne virus, it can be spread by biting insects (as can Myxo), it can be spread by direct and indirect contact with infected rabbits. For example – if you, your dog or cat has walked on ground where a VHD infected rabbit has been, you can carry it on your clothes or shoes, your other pets can carry it on fur or feet. The virus can survive in the environment for a long time and can survive cold temperatures far better than you might expect.

Due to the new strain of RHD rabbits now require 2 vaccinations per year to be fully vaccinated:

  1. Nobivac combo – Just one injection covers them for myxomatosis and RHVD1. This can be given from 5 weeks old
  2. Filavac RHVD – One injection. This covers them against RHVD2. This can be given from 10 weeks old

You need to leave at least 2 weeks gap between the different types of vaccines. If you can manage to schedule it so that there is a gap of 4-6 months between vaccines then this would mean your rabbit would have a veterinary health check up approx every 6 months but you don’t have to work to this schedule, just make sure there are at least 2 weeks between vaccines.
Protocols for both vaccines can vary depending on the risk level of infection in your local area.

Please contact us if you have any concerns.

Health Checks

Health checks are our best tool in preventing and beginning diagnoses of disease in pets. Unfortunately our patients cannot tell us ‘where it hurts’ or ‘what they have eaten’ therefore a full health check, combined with our experience, is one of our best diagnostic tools.

What do we usually check?

  • General condition including body condition, coat quality, alertness and responsiveness
  • Eyes and ears for signs of infection or abnormalities
  • Mouth and teeth for infection or dental disease
  • Joints, feet, spine, hips and neck – especially in older pets looking for signs of arthritis
  • Lymph nodes for size and shape
  • Listen to the heart and lungs for any abnormalities
  • Abdominal palpitation – especially in cats and smaller dogs we can often feel the liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines and bladder
  • Claws – checking length and for any damage

Depending on the purpose of the visit, we may check some things more quickly or in more detail, you would be surprised how intimately we get to know your pet in just a few minutes.
We would recommend that all pets have a full health check at least once a year, we would usually carry this out when they come in for their annual vaccinations. As pets get older it is a good idea to have them checked over more frequently, your vet can advise on how often they would advise coming in for check ups.

Choosing a New Pet

There are a number of considerations when choosing a new pet. This guide aims to help you make the best decision for you that suits your lifestyle and living arrangements.


The first choice is what kind of dog. The range of breeds today is massive from Alaskan Malamutes to Yorkshire Terriers, German Shepherds to West Highland White Terriers.

Here are some key points to bear in mind:

  • Dogs from breeds developed for working and sporting activities, such as spaniels and Collies, will require more exercise than toy breeds or even giant breeds
  • Some breeds with curly or long haired coats will require clipping or grooming by a dog groomer
  • Long haired dogs will require more grooming
  • Some short haired breeds cast their coats heavily
  • Research the breed

Adult or Puppy?

Rehoming an adult dog can be a rewarding experience. This means taking on a dog that has had a previous owner, so there can be issues to be overcome whether it be the dogs health or behavioural problems.

When choosing a new dog always obtain as much information as possible; previous history, vaccination and worming records and arrange for the dog to be checked by a vet as soon as possible.

When adopting a puppy, remember to choose wisely as you will be together for about 15 years. Once you have selected what type of dog you want, do research to get as much information as possible. When you have selected a breed, always look for a reputable breeder. When visiting puppies you should always be able to meet the mother at the same time and spend time with the mother to assess her temperament. If the mother is not present, this could be an indication that the pup is being sold on through dealers which can create extra problems. If the puppy has a passport, this means it has been imported.

Here’s a check list to go through when choosing a puppy:

  • What diet has the puppy been fed? It is always best to keep the puppy on the same food initially. If necessary gradually move them on to a good quality puppy food
  • Has the puppy been dewormed? If so what product? Your vet will ask you this when you take your puppy for its first check-up
  • Is the puppy micro chipped? It is now the law in the UK that all dogs are microchipped by the breeder by 8 weeks old
  • Has the puppy’s mother or father received any breeding health checks? E.g. Hip Scores or eye conditions
  • Has your puppy got a pedigree? If so, ensure you obtain a copy of the pedigree with Kennel Club Registrations of both the mother and father
  • If you want the puppy to be Kennel Club Registered, ask the breeder to do it as it is a lot easier for them
  • Has the puppy received any vaccinations? If so you need a vaccination card to show your vet
  • Tell the breeder that the sale is not finalised until you have had the puppy checked by your own vet


Adult Cat or Kitten?

The most important thing to consider when adopting a kitten is what kind of lifestyle it will have when it grows up and what type of personality you are looking for. If the kitten is going to be left alone for long periods of time whilst you are at work it may be better to consider getting a pair of kittens so they can keep each other company.

Kittens from feral or farm cats may not adapt well to a totally indoor lifestyle so you need to consider beforehand if you want an indoor or outdoor cat. When visiting a litter of kittens always ask to see the mother to make sure she is happy and healthy, this will also give you an idea of her personality. A kitten should not be rehomed before they are 8 weeks old, this is to make sure they are fully weaned from the mother and helps to avoid problems once they go to their new home. We often see kittens that have been rehomed to young and this can lead to sickness and diarrhoea.

If you a considering a pedigree kitten then make sure you do research into the different breeds. You may be drawn to a particular breed because of its apperance but you should also consider personality, grooming requirements and breed specific health concerns. Pedigree kittens are often not rehomed until they are 13 weeks old, this allows for health screens, vaccinatons and worming to be done and they will be registered with one of the cat registration bodies GCCF or TICA.

Here’s a check list to go through when collecting a new kitten:

  • How old is the kitten? Do they look younger then 8 weeks?
  • Have they been wormed? Which product and when?
  • Have they had any vaccinations? You will be asked for this information from your vet
  • For pedigree breeds have they had DNA Health Checks? ask for certificates if complete

If you work long hours or are elderly, it may be more appropriate to get an older cat, as kittens can be alot of work. There are always lots of older cats looking for new homes at animal rescue cnetres and cat charities.

An adult cat will have a distint personality so it is important to make sure that their personality fits with your lifestyle. If the cat has previously been an outdoor cat they are unlikely to want to adjust to been indoors. Is the cat used to being handled? living with children or other cats? Most animal rescues/ charities will have vaccinated the cat for you, make sure you get paperwork for this so you know when booster vaccinations are due, also check if that cat has been flea treated and wormed and which products were used. Always enquire about any known pre-existing illness so you can consider the cost implications of this illness. If rehoming from a previos owner ask which vet practice so that their medical record can be obtained.

Choosing an Exotic Pet

When considering adopting an exotic pet planning and research key. Whilst dogs and cats are quite happy adapting to our enviroments exotics have very specific needs that must be met to keep them happy and healthy.

Things to consider:

  • What equipment and space is required?
  • How easy is it to keep/feed/clean and medicate?
  • What do they eat and where can you source the food from (all year round)
  • What kind of costs are incurred in general and for vet treatment
  • What sort of things commonly go wrong with this pet?
  • Is there insurance available?

Once you have decided on a species:

  • Do not buy 2nd hand cages/tanks/pet furniture
  • Prepare your pets new home at least 2 weeks in advance
  • Monitor temperature and humidity levels to ensure they are correct
  • Only buy exotics from a specialist
  • Choose the biggest and brightest individual
  • Obtain any required certificates
  • Make sure you have the facilities to get your pet home so they are comfortable
  • Organise a vet check to make sure the pet is healthy and all its needs are being met
  • Monitor your new pet for at least 6 weeks before mixing with other exotics of the same species
  • If you have other exotic pets, keep them separate. Do not share any equipment and wash your hands between handling

Hospital Procedures

Its always hard leaving your pet at the vets to have a hospital procedure, so we have created these story boards of common procedures to help set your mind at rest and give a bit of insight to what happens in the hospital.

What do I need to know before the day of the procedure?

Once your pet has been booked into the hospital, the receptionist will email you a list of pre-operative instructions to follow.

Cats and dogs need to be starved before their procedures, we advise no food after midnight the night before, unless your vets has given you alternative instructions. Kittens and puppies under 4 months can have a small meal on the morning of the procedure. Small furries must not be starved (we ask that you also bring some of their favourite food on the day of the procedure).

Here is a copy of our Pre-operative instructions

If you are looking to claim the cost of the procedure through your pets insurance, please call our insurance department before the day of the procedure, so they can contact your insurance company to make the necessary arrangements.

What happens on the day?

Day patients are asked to arrive at the practice between 8.00 and 9.30 in the morning. They will have an admission appointment with one of the nurses, on a first come first served basis. During this appointment the nurse will  check for any changes since the previous consultation and make an assessment of health in relation to the procedure being carried out. They will discuss whether pre-anaesthetic blood tests are recommended for that particular patient, to check health and organ function. The owner’s contact details are taken and other points for us to take into account such as what sort of food the patient likes.

They are then taken by the nurse through to the hospital and settled in a suitable cage, with a comfortable bed. A pheromone diffuser is used in the kennel areas to try and create a relaxed atmosphere for them. There is a specific nurse responsible for day patients while they are waiting for and recovering from their procedures. They are free to fuss and monitor patients and make sure they have everything they need.  

Dog Castration - (Male Neutering)

We normally recommend neutering male dogs from 6 months old.

Each case is individual, so please seek veterinary advice before booking any procedure.

Small Furries

Fly strike

Any rabbit left to sit in damp and dirty surroundings is prone to disease which is why it is important to clean hutches and pens regularly. This is especially important in the summer when flies seek places to lay eggs. It is important to clean rabbits living spaces daily in the summer and to check the rabbit all over at the end of the each day. Fly eggs are very small, white and oval and they stick very strongly to the animal's hair. If these eggs are not removed and are allowed to hatch out (often overnight) they produce maggots. These maggots rapidly cause unbelievable injuries and pain to the animal. During the warmer months, rabbits should be checked over by the owner once a day.


This is a disease transmitted by fleas, or from contract with other infected rabbits. Symptoms are usually swollen eyelids and thick discharge from the eyes and nose. The rabbit will become very subdued and stop eating. This condition is usually fatal.  Vaccination each year can prevent this disease.


This is a bacterial condition and can be related to stress.  The rabbit will develop cold-like symptoms with a runny nose, breathing difficulties and discharge from the eyes. Snuffles can lead to more serious problems such as pneumonia, head tilt and tooth root abscesses.  The hutch should be kept well ventilated and at a constant temperature, removing wet bedding to reduce stress.

Rabbits - average life span 5-10yrs

Rabbits need a balanced diet with high levels of fibre to keep them healthy.

As foragers rabbits must be fed twice a day every day. The traditional rabbit mix sold in pet shops was originally designed to fatten rabbits up - some contain chocolate drops and inappropriate components, leading to obesity and overgrown teeth. It is important the right diet is offered to pet rabbits so as to keep the teeth working hard and help prevent them from overgrowing and becoming a problem. If they do become overlong they curl into the gums and teeth causing big problems with eating. Routine examination of pet rabbits should be carried out by the owner (an adult not a child). If the teeth appear to be causing a problem it is important your take the rabbit for a veterinary health check. Because rabbits eat food high in cellulose (plant fibre), like grass and hay, some of the food they eat has to pass through the digestive system twice. Some of the faeces passed overnight are very soft and pale in colour and contain high amounts of this fibre. These are called caecotrophs and are eaten by the rabbit to go through the digestive process a second time. This makes it easier to get the nutrients out of the tough fibre.

Guinea Pigs - average life span 5-8yrs

Guinea pigs are clever and sociable pets.  They don't need a high space because they don't jump or climb, but they do need a lot of floor space, however they do like a house with an elevated roof to sit on. They need a temperature between 18-26 degrees C and so in winter, they should be housed indoors.   Guinea pigs should be fed twice daily with a high fibrous diet and vitamin C (this is why guinea pig food is different to rabbit food - guinea pigs must have added vitamin C in their food).  Guinea pigs love to have companions - littermates or single sex guineas (not rabbits, as they can bully guinea pigs).
Guinea pigs are relatively trouble free and make very good pets for children but always require adult supervision. Long haired guinea pigs do need grooming and this should be taken into account when choosing your guinea pig.
Guinea pigs can live for up to 7 years and so this needs to be a consideration when you decide to buy one for your children – you may be left caring for them long after the kids have left home! Always buy from a reputable pet shop or breeder and pick the one that looks healthy, is bright and friendly. The guinea pig should be at least six weeks old.


Approach the guinea pig from the front and on its level. Pick it up using both hands, one around the hindquarters,the other around its shoulders (for a young guinea pig) or around its chest (for an adult). Guinea pigs may become upset by too much handling.


Guinea pigs should be checked regularly for overgrown claws and teeth. Both can be trimmed by a vet. 
Too much scratching results from skin problems and is often caused by mites or lice. We can provide suitable treatment for these.

Long-haired guinea pigs in particular, may suffer from the potentially fatal disease flystrike, caused by flies laying eggs in soiled fur. Make sure the guinea pigs' home is cleaned every day and bedding changed regularly.

Groom guinea pigs every day, checking their fur all over for any dirt, especially under the tail. If a guinea pig develops bald patches on its face, this could indicate the fungal disease ringworm. In this case, bring your pet to see the vet as soon as possible. Guinea pigs can suffer from vitamin C deficiency, which causes weight loss, general weakness and swollen joints. Ask us for advice on how to provide your guinea pigs with an adequate supply of this vitamin. 

If you have any concerns about your guinea pigs' health, contact us for advice. 

Hamsters - average life span 1-3yrs

Hamsters are very clever and adventurous - they are determined escape artists. Hamsters need lots of toys and frequent handling to keep them tame and socialised.  They are naturally nocturnal so play with them in the evening.  Hamsters are omnivorous, they hoard food and need chewing material to keep their teeth short.

Some species of hamsters like to live alone (eg Syrian) and some prefer a companion (dwarf hamsters).

Gerbils - average life span 3-5yrs

Gerbils are friendly and inquisitive. Gerbils eat seeds, grains, roots and insects in the wild.  They are very active and in the wild live in tunnels in the desert sand.  They need very little water but their supply should be fresh.

They are not smelly pets as they are adapted to preserve water and their faeces are dry.  They like a thick layer of sawdust, or something similar, to tunnel in.  They can be handled if not taken by surprise.

Rats - average life span 2-4yrs

Rats are very intelligent and agile. They should be housed indoors with a large cage. The cage should be high enough to allow them two levels. Rats are omnivores and need protein. They should not be fed human food or nuts.  They need feeding once a day and need cleaning out regularly as they hoard food. Rats are nocturnal and so will be playful in the evening. They enjoy being handled if it is done properly. They are very sociable creatures and so are best kept with another rat of the same sex, preferably a litter mate as they can fight if introduced to a new rat.

Chinchillas - average life span 10-20yrs

Chinchillas are very bright, inquisitive and good climbers.  They need a large cage with a climbing area, a sleeping box and a daily fresh sand bath.  They are indoor pets and need a constant temperature above 28 degrees C.  Chinchillas are herbivores, needing a lot of fibre.  This helps grind down their constantly growing teeth.  They are very intelligent pets and so need lots of toys for stimulation.  They are sociable and like to be with a single sex group.

Ferrets - average life span 5-11yrs

Ferrets are very intelligent and inquisitive pets. They can live in cages with several levels so they have lots of space.  They can also live freely in the house and use a litter tray. Ferrets are carnivores and need high levels of meat protein and fat.  They need to be fed little and often throughout the day. They are very playful and play happily with humans with tunnels and balls.


Fireworks can cause a significant amount of stress to owners and their pets. Pets often become anxious, unsettled and often vocal due to the loud noises and flashes of light caused by fireworks.
Below are several ways in which to help your pet feel safer and more comfortable.

  • Avoid leaving your pets alone – they will feel safer with you around
  • Keep your cat or dog inside, and keep all windows, curtains and doors closed
  • If your pet starts feeling anxious – stay calm and act normally. This will help your pet feel safer and lets them know there is nothing to fear. Do not respond directly to their anxiety – you will only reinforce it
  • Create a den – Create a dark quiet space for your pet where they can go if they choose to. Try placing a blanket over a dog crate and placing it in a quiet room with the curtains/blinds closed, blackout curtains would be preferable
  • Turn on the TV or some music to drown out some of the noise
  • Provide your cat with a litter tray if it is used to being able to get into the garden
  • Make sure your pet is wearing a form of identification. If they manage to escape, this will make sure you can be easily contacted when your pet is found. Microchips are excellent but remember to ensure your registered details are up-to-date with the chip database. However, they do not replace collars which are useful for restraining an anxious dog as well as identification
  • Ensure that any collars are safety collars so your pet does not hurt itself if it gets caught on other objects. Reflective collars are a good idea since it is often dark and being hit by a car is one of the bigger risks
  • Adaptyl – Dog Appeasing Pheromone are products containing pheromones similar to that produced by a lactating bitch to calm puppies. This is available in plug-ins, collar's and sprays
  • Pharmaceuticals – There are several drugs that can be used to help reduce stress during fireworks season. We do recommend trying the above methods first before turning to medication unless otherwise specified by your vet
  • Take your dog for a walk during daylight, when fireworks are less likely to be let off

With rabbits and smaller animals:

  • Bring their hutch or cage inside to a quiet room, garage or shed
  • If you cannot move it, turn it away from the open garden to face the house, cover it with thick blankets or a quilt so your pet isn't able to see the flashes and provide them with extra bedding so they can hide away 

Not all pets are affected by fireworks but if you're not sure whether your dog is stressed by fireworks, his symptoms may include some or all of the following: 

  • Salivating and drooling
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Scratching to get into the house or out of a room
  • Hiding in corners or under furniture
  • Whining, barking or howling
  • Whimpering and excessive or abnormal attention seeking
  • Loss of bodily functions - bladder and/or bowel
  • Refusal to eat 

If you are unsure of your pets behaviour or if you know your pet is stressed by fireworks, please seek veterinary advice well before fireworks season. The later you wait the less effect a lot of the above mentioned treatments will have.


You may have someone in your family to watch your pet while you are away, and there are some commercial enterprises which will look after your pets in their own home.

Your pets staying at home

For most situations, boarding kennels and catteries are the answer. Before leaving your pet in kennels or cattery, visit the establishment yourself to make sure that it is suitable. Leave your pet there for a short stay (perhaps a weekend) as a trial. Once you have found a good kennel or cattery, keep using it as your pet will become accustomed to being left there for short periods.
All animals going to kennels or cattery must be fully vaccinated and protected against fleas. With dogs make sure that they receive a special Kennel Cough Vaccine. Each kennel/cattery will have its own requirements  to allow your pet to stay there, make sure you check these at least a month in advance so arrangements can be made.

Your pets coming with you

UK Holidays

Finding a tick buried into your dog’s skin is not very pleasant at all. Besides causing a possible skin reaction they can transmit really nasty diseases some of which can be life-threatening. Lyme disease is one such disease. Transmitted by the most common ticks in the UK, the sheep and hedgehog tick, this disease can affect both dogs and humans. Ask the vet or at reception for the best tick protection for your pet.

Did you know 1 in 6 dogs suffer from travel sickness

The tell-tale symptoms of dog travel sickness include excessive drooling, restlessness, trembling, anxiety and excessive swallowing or lip-smacking. But it’s important to remember that different dogs display different symptoms. Some pups may vomit without any other signs of discomfort. Others may not throw up at all. If one or more of the above symptoms is present while driving, it’s possible your dog is a travel sickness sufferer.

If your pet gets travel sick arrange a check up before you travel and we can advice the best product for your pet.

Going Abroad

If you are going abroad please refer to the DEFRA website or call 0870 241 1710 for the latest information. It is your responsibility to ensure your pet has all the relevant vaccinations and treatment prior to travel.

If you are travelling to an EU country your pet will require a PET Passport. In order for the vet to give you this, your dog must be fully vaccinated, have a registered microchip and will usually require Rabies vaccination at least 21 days prior to travelling.

If you are travelling to a Non-EU country your pet will require the same as an EU country but in addition will also need a blood test 30 days post rabies vaccination to confirm the vaccine has been successful and a third country veterinary certificate.

Every country has its own individual set of requirements and it is important that you refer to the DEFRA website to get the lastest information.

Nutrition & Obesity


There are now such a wide variety of pet foods on the market, that choosing the correct one for your pet can seem a little daunting, this fact sheet will discuss some of the differences and hopefully help you choose a diet that will keep your pet happy and healthy throughout its life.

What to look for in a good diet:

  • High meat content (not meat derivatives etc.)
  • It is balanced or 'complete'
  • It suits your pets specific needs e.g. age, size, medical conditions
  • It is very difficult to create a properly balanced home cooked diet for your pet and feeding human food can lead to fussy pets which can become problematic when the pet is ill or needs special food

Wet Vs Dry

Dry diets or 'biscuits' are best in the majority of cases, usually they are more cost effective, can be left out all day and are the best diet for clean teeth. Generally though , for cats, particularly male neutered cats, some wet food is advised to help prevent bladder problems.

Different Types of Diets

  • Life Stage - geared up for the specific age of the pet. Young animals need a high level of protein for growth and have high energy requirements. Large breed puppies need controlled nutrition to help them grow correctly to avoid damage to the joints. Neutered and older pets need fewer calories as they can be prone to weight gain
  • Breed Specific - Small breed/ Large breed/ pedigree breeds. Small dogs generally are fussy, require smaller biscuits and have a high energy requirement
  • 'Light diets' - for pets prone to putting on weight e.g. neutered pets, Labradors(!) and arthritic pets who are exercising less. Good for keeping weight off but not necessarily for losing weight
  • Performance/working dogs - as the name suggests, designed for dogs using a high level of energy e.g. working collie dogs or dogs doing alot of high energy sport like agility or fly ball. Can also be used in pets struggling to keep weight on
  • Hypoallergenic - Lower in allergens, good for pets with delicate or sensitive tummies or prone to allergic skin disease e.g. Westies

Veterinary Prescription Diets:

  • Should only be used on advice of your vet
  • Specifically designed for certain diseases whilst still providing a balanced diet
  • In some cases, such as kidney disease, feeding prescription diet can significantly prolong life and reduce the amount of medication your pet has to take

Raw Diet

All pets should be fed a nutritionally balanced diet and kept to an optimal body weight. There are many considerations for owners balancing budget and convenience and a good quality, nutritionally balanced food.

There are a large range of pet foods available and it can be confusing to decide what is best to feed your pet.

Dry and tinned foods vary greatly in quality. We recommend feeding a good quality food, avoiding foods that contain colourings and meat and bone meal or derivatives.
Raw foods and home-cooked diets are increasingly popular but it is important to ensure that they are nutritionally balanced and safe.
Where a raw diet containing meat and meat products is fed, hygiene measures should be in place to minimise the transmission of communicable disease (campylobacter, salmonella). We would recommend sourcing your food, or food components from a trusted and responsible supplier who is a DEFRA-registered raw food manufacturer.

The risk of food-borne illness to both pets and their owners must be a serious consideration for any person choosing to feed raw food. While it carries no greater risk than handling fresh raw produce intended for humans,  pet owners feeding raw food must be dedicated to good hygiene practices, and fully aware of potential causes of contamination. Where there are children or immune compromised adult medical advice should be sought before considering where to prepare, handle and store raw food.
Managing the nutrition of puppies is particularly important as there is the potential for severe consequences if diet is inappropriate at this early stage. Please contact us for advice, and one of our raw food consultants can advise you.
All pets are individuals.  Some dogs thrive on compounded raw diets, gluten free diet or home cooked diets.
Ensure the chosen diet is nutritionally complete and balanced.  Please speak to your vet for further advice on the best diet for your pet.


Obesity is the most common disease of domestic animals and is now recognised to be at least as harmful as starving your pet.
Causes of obesity:

  • Eating more calories than they burn off (too much food + too little exercise)
  • Inability to exercise sufficiently (medical conditions, owners medical conditions, Indoor cat)
  • Food fed ad-lib, fatty foods, human food and too many treats - a slice of toast and butter or a small plain biscuit = the equivalent of a hamburger to a human!
  • Some animals are naturally born with less inclination to exercise
  • Breed - Labradors, Cockers, Beagles, Collies, Dachshunds, Cairns and Cavalier/King Charles Spaniels are especially prone to weight gain
  • Sex/age - Females are more prone to obesity, as are the middle aged/elderly dogs
  • Neutering - pets require 30% less calories once neutered (the benefits of neutering outweigh the risk of gaining weight though
  • Being an only pet

Obesity related problems:

  • Causes/exacerbates respiratory disease
  • Increase strain on the heart (espicially bad for animals prone to heart problems e.g. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers etc.)
  • Increase risk of arthritis and more strain on arthritis and more strain on arthritic joints
  • Insulin resistance causing Diabetes Mellitus
  • Increased urinary incontinence problems in dogs, increased risk of bladder blockages in cats
  • Higher risk under general anaesthetic
  • Decreased quality of life for your pet
  • Sadly overweight pets can live up to 2 years less than pets kept in slim condition

Is your pet fat?

Firstly take a long hard look at your pet and ask these questions;

  • From above, does my pet have a defined 'waist?' They should curve in after the ribs and back out towards the hips
  • Run the palms of your hands along your pets rib cage - can you feel their ribs easily?

If the answer to these questions is no, your pet may need to lose a bit of weight - make an appointment with us for a FREE weight clinic appointment with one of our nurses, who will accurately weigh your pet and provide advice on getting started with a weight loss programme. We are here to help and encourage you and your pet so don't be afraid to pick up the phone and make an appointment.


We understand that this is a very difficult decision and emotional time for owners losing a much-loved pet.
We endeavor to allow owners time with their animal before and after euthanasia and will try to arrange for this at suitable times. House visits can be arranged at prior request but are subject to availability, please see our house visits page or call the practice for further information.

It will always be very painful and emotionally difficult when a beloved pet dies. Each one is unique in our hearts, but the love we have for them and from them makes it all so worthwhile and wonderful knowing that they were a part of our lives. Our best memorial to them is how we go on with the next chapter of our lives enriched by their love. The following website provides an insight into preparing to say goodbye to your beloved pet.

Compassion Understood
Some owners wish for their pets ashes to be returned to them, we can arrange this. Individual cremation with return of ashes does cost more and will vary depending on the size of the animal and the kind of container chosen.

Please click here to view the brochure which shows the many options of urns and caskets available and their individual cost.



What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine, solid needles into the body for pain relief or, in some cases, to help the body deal with other diseases.

How does acupuncture work?

It works through the nervous system. The needles block the pain messages and encourage the brain and central nervous system to produce more of the body’s natural painkillers. In conditions that are not painful, acupuncture may help to reset the body’s normal functioning.

What kinds of conditions are treated with acupuncture?

Pain is the most common indication for acupuncture. Usually this means pain associated with arthritis, but also muscle strains, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine. Other kinds of pain may also respond.

Functional conditions such as constipation in cats and irritable bowel type problems in dogs may also respond.

Will it hurt my pet?

Acupuncture needles stimulate nerves that do not cause the unpleasant feelings of pain that we are trying to treat. They stimulate other nerves that send a more important message to the brain, which is how they block pain. Sometimes animals may react to this sensation as though they are expecting pain, but then relax because it does not occur. Most of the time they accept the fine needles very well and often become relaxed and sleepy during the treatment. Often they appear to look forward to the next treatment when they come back to the practice.

Would my pet need to be sedated for this treatment?

It is uncommon for animals to need to be sedated. This would only usually happen if they were so painful that any touch or stimulus causes them to be painful. Perhaps surprisingly, cats and rabbits often accept acupuncture treatment very well.

What can I expect during treatment?

After examination, needles will be put into various parts of the body and moved or stimulated a few times. There is not a set “dose” of acupuncture as there is for medication, so your vet will judge how much to do based on your pet’s response both at the time and after the treatment. They may become sleepy and relaxed during the treatment.

How often would my pet be treated?

The usual course is once a week for four to six weeks. After four weeks we will know whether acupuncture is working for your pet and then, depending on the condition and how they have responded, we will work out a plan that usually involves tailing off the treatment so that the effect is maintained for as long as possible.

And after the treatment?

It is not uncommon for pets to go home and sleep very soundly for a long time. This is a good sign and shows that your pet will probably respond well to acupuncture. But do not worry if they are not sleepy – this does not mean that they will not respond. Sometimes your pet may seem a little more euphoric than usual; this is also a good sign, but keep them quiet for the rest of the day or they may overdo things.
Otherwise treat your pet normally after acupuncture. Do not change exercise, diet or medication unless it has been discussed with your vet.

What about response?

Your pet may show one of three responses to treatment:

  1. You will see an improvement. This may occur anytime in the three days after treatment. The signs that we are trying to treat may then return before the next treatment, but this is fine. After each subsequent treatment the effects should last for longer, so that your pet may eventually not need more treatments for some time
  2. Some pets may seem a little stiffer or more uncomfortable. This just means that the dose was a bit too much, but also shows that they should respond to treatment. After a day or two they will improve again and should be better than before. However, you must tell your vet so that they can adjust the treatment next time.
  3. In a very small number of cases there is no immediate response. This is always disappointing but does not mean your pet will not respond; it may just be that they will take a little longer or that their improvement after the first treatment was too brief or small for you to see. We cannot say that they will not respond until after the fourth treatment. Not all animals or humans are acupuncture "responders", but about 80% will be

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe, in the right hands. Legally it must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. There have been no official reports of problems in animals, but there are some in humans and these can usually be avoided with care and a good knowledge of anatomy. There are a very few cases in which we would have to be very cautious about using acupuncture, but your veterinary acupuncturist can advise you of these.


The skin is the largest organ in the body and is the most common organ to show signs of allergy. It is very visible, touchable and accessible to sampling.

However case management of the itchy dog can be very frustrating and pruritus (the medical term for itchiness) can severely effect the quality of life of both your pet and you the owner. A detailed history is paramount to obtaining a diagnosis for your pet.

Do I have an Itchy Dog?

Below are a few questions that are asked as part of our dermatological consultation, if you answer yes to any of them you may have an allergic dog and this is the article for you. 


Most common causes of itchiness in our dogs is ectoparasite infestation especially fleas. Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats throughout the world! It is imperative that infestations of fleas on our pet is ruled out before embarking on further investigations. 
Below is an example of a flea history that your vet may ask you:

  1. Which flea product is being used? - It is the correct dose?
  2. How often is the product been applied?
  3. Have any fleas been seen? - When and on which animals in the house?
  4. How many animals live in the house?
  5. Are the pets shampooed on a regular basis?
  6. What environmental control is being used? and how often?

The cat flea (C. Felis) is the primary flea causing the disease and below is a diagram of the life cycle of the flea, as you can see it involves both your pet and the environment, which is why we often advocate not just treating the pets in a household but also an environmental spray when trying to eliminate fleas.

It is also worth mentioning at this stage, that the cat flea can act as an intermediate host for the common tape worm (Dipyldium Caninum) and it is also important that effective tapeworm treatment is administrated if there is a suspicion of fleas.

It is the fleas saliva which contains the allergens that cause the reaction on your pets skin. Diagnosis involves a detailed history been taken, observation of clinical signs and trial treatment of flea control product.

Flea allergic dermatitis can occur in pets of any age but classically the signs are first noted in young adulthood. In the dog classical clinical signs are severe itching frequently effecting the tail base and back end of the the dog. Most of the lesions on the animal are a result of self trauma, these include redness of the skin, hair loss, secondary skin infections, thickening and darkening of the skin and sometimes open weeping skin.

Many flea allergic dogs exhibit a behaviour of jumping up suddenly and biting themselves, although because of the dogs efficient grooming style, as owners its often difficult to spot any fleas.  When you come to the vet we will examine for fleas, close inspection of the animal is paramount and sometimes a flea comb may be used to demonstrate presence of fleas or flea dirt which is almost exclusivily made up of blood and when pressed on a tissue will be red.

Often if the vet has a strong suspicion of flea allergic dermatitis but can't find any fleas, which is common, they will still treat the pet to ensure it is eliminated from the work-up before moving on to any further more exhaustive testing.


Mites such as Sarcoptes Scabei (scabies), Demodex Canis, Cheylietella (also know as wondering dandruff) and Otodectes Cyamotis (ear mites) can all cause our dogs to itch and especially Sarcoptes Scabei (Sarcoptic mange) can be a complicating factor in allergic disease.

Sarcoptes Scabei (Sarcoptic mange)

Sarcoptic mange also known as scabies, is a non-seasonal, intensely itchy skin condition caused by infestations of the burrowing mite Sarcoptes Scabei. It has been demonstrated that mites applied to the skin can penetrate within 30 minutes. Following infestation the mites mate, and the fertilized females burrow, forming tunnels and laying eggs as they zig zag through the epidermis. 

The feeding and the deposition of faeces within the skin expose our dogs to allergens which in dogs triggers an immunological response and most will develop moderate to intensely itchy skin initially affecting the outer ears, elbows, hocks and undercarriage of your dog. The skin becomes very red, hair is lost and the dogs skin becomes excoriated due to the intense itching. Secondary skin infections can develop and sometimes cause heavy scaling.

Canine Sarcoptic Mange is highly contagious, the majority of mites been transmitted by direct contact with infected dogs or foxes. It is also zoonosis which means it can cross the species and that means it can infect humans, also causing the condition Scabies.

Diagnosis again involves a concise history and examination of the pet. If we suspect Sarcoptic Mange we may wish to take skin scrapes so we can look under the microscope to visualize the presence of mites and/or eggs. Skin scrapes are taken from areas that show skin lesions, this is usually a quick process and can be performed in the consultation room. However some pets lesions may be too sore to sample and a light sedation may be suggested to retrieve the skin scrapings. 

If no mites are retrieved on skin scrapes, which can happen, and the index of suspicion still remains high your vet may suggest either a blood sample, which can be sent to the laboratory, to look for circulating antibodies to Sarcoptes infection or your vet may suggest skin biopsies which will involve an anaesthetic to demonstrate the mite is present in your dogs skin.

Treatment is usually very effective at eliminating infection and there is rapid resolution of the pruritus and malaise in these patients. This is why a therapeutic trial can be used also as a diagnostic aid. It is often lovely to see a mite under the microscope to confirm diagnosis but as an attending vet I feel, trial Sarcoidal treatment is justified for any pruritic dog presenting with historical and clinical features suggestive of Sarcoptic Mange. It is important to remember that the mite can live off the body for a limited period, so all dogs known to be in contact with affected animals should be treated. Grooming equipment, bedding and the domestic environment should be treated with an appropriate spray. Attempts should be made to limit socialization with other dogs and foxes during treatment and persistently infected humans should consult their doctor.


This is caused by a mite called Cheyletiella, which lives on the skins surface. They live in little tunnels formed by the scale generated in response to their activity hence the name they are more commonly known as 'wondering dandruff'. This mite is not host specific so can transmit to other pets and humans often causing paticularly uncomfortable rashes. They can live off the body for up to 10 days so it is important to treat incontact pet mammals and the environment if diagnosis is established. Typically a dog will present with dandruff down their back, there may be mild redness of the skin itching is vanable, young animals often exhibit more obvious clinical signs than adults. In some dogs infection can cause traumatic dermatitis known as hot spots. Animals presenting with repeated hot spots should be investigated for Cheyletiella. 

Diagnosis involves either skin scrapes or applying adhesive acetate tape (cellotape) to areas of the animals coat and examining these under the microscope. To the right is a picture of a cheyletiella mite under the microscope.

Atopy and Adverse Food Reactions

The second part of this article will focus on Allergic causes of itchiness in our dog's. We have touched on flea allergic dermatitis and are now going to look at Atopic dermatitis and adverse food reaction.
The definition of Atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin condition associated with an allergy to environmental allergens. While adverse food reaction is a clinically abnormal response to a dietary constituent. Adverse food reactions cannot be distinguished clinically from atopic dermatitis and the former needs to be ruled out before embarking on serum blood testing for environmental allergens.

Adverse Food Reactions

Adverse food reactions (Afr) can develop in dogs of any age, although in the majority of dogs clinical signs become evident as puppies or young adults before 3 years of age. Labrador Retrievers and West highland Terriers seem to be at increased risk. There is no gender predisposition.

The predominant presenting clinical sign of Afr in the dog is a non-seasonal itch. These dogs often have recurrent skin infections. The itch can involve any body region but is often identical to that of Atopic Dermatitis.

Recurrent ear infection is also common and may present in 56%-80% of cases with dogs with Adverse food reactions. Gastrointestinal signs have been recognised as a symptom of Afr. Intermittent vomiting, diarrhea, colitis and rumbling bowel sounds have all been noted in cases of Afr.


The current gold standard method is a dietary trial on a strict novel protein diet for 4-6 weeks, sometimes up to 8-10weeks. The selected diet should be based on a protein to which the dog has little or no exposure to . For the normal healthy adult dog, an unsupplemented single protein and carbohydrate diet can be fed without complications for the duration of the trial but MUST be balanced for long term feeding. Food trials can very difficult to implement correctly but can be very rewarding if the primary and only reason for your dog's itch is food allergen-related. If you feel your dog could possibly be suffering from Afr please speak to your vet.

Atopic Dermatitis

As defined this is an allergic reaction to environmental allergens. these can be divided into indoor allergens such as house dust mites and storage mites and outdoor allergens such as grass pollens. Historically the allergens were presumed to be inhaled but it is more likely that the allergens are absorbed across the skin barrier. The presenting sign is itchiness with recurrent skin infections. Signs are typically seen in young adulthood between 1 and 3 years old, although atopic dermatitis can occur as young as 3 months or as old as 12 years.

Certain breeds seem to be predisposed to atopic dermatitis. A list can be seen below:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Dalmation
  • Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • German Shephard
  • Golden Retriever
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Pug
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shar Pei
  • Schnauzer
  • Shih Tzu
  • West Highland White Terrier

Dogs with Atopic dermatitis often show a partial or complete resolution of their symptoms on steroids. However, long-term use of steroids can cause clinical problems.

On exam, Atopic individuals have salivary staining over their body, they have loss of hair, the skin can be greasy or scaly and often ear infections are present. Atopic Rhinitis (snotty nose) and conjunctivitis can be present. The skin is often very red and sometimes thickened. Atopic individuals can have recurrent skin infections which can act as a complicating factor in their Atopy.


This can be difficult as you can see distribution and clinical signs are very similar to other skin conditions. The diagnosis is based on the  history given, physical examination and ruling out all other differential diagnosis which may involve skin scraping, sellotape strips, trial treatments and food trials. Allergy testing is available in the form of a blood test at Taylors, please speak to your vet further about this.

If you feel your pet is suffering from Atopy, please come along for a consultation to discuss further diagnosis and management strategies.

So that was a whistle stop tour of the itchy dog. I hope it gave you an insight into common causes of the itchy dog and if any of the article resonates with you please don't suffer in silence with an itchy pet. 

Dental Health

Dogs and Cats

Four out of five dogs over the age of three years have dental disease. This is the most frequently occurring clinical condition in both dogs and cats. The bacteria that gather on the tartar on the teeth can enter the blood stream and cause damage to the heart valves and the kidneys. These conditions can become serious and irreversible.

Cats can develop painful cavities in their teeth known as neck lesions. These have no cure and so the affected teeth have to be extracted under general anaesthetic.
Signs of dental disease: 

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating - eating less, refusing harder foods, dropping food out of their mouth.
  • Red painful gums
  • Plaque and tartar on teeth
  • Rubbing at the side of their face
  • Drooling and saliva staining of the fur around the mouth
  • Weight loss (due to eating less)
  • Lethargic and miserable

Steps you can take to help prevent developing dental diseases;

  • We recommend regular dental checks by a vet
  • Get into the habit of checking your pets mouth for signs of disease
  • Tooth brushing - we stock a range of flavoured veterinary toothpaste's, DO NOT use your own toothpaste on your pet as they are too harsh
  • Introduce tooth brushing slowly to your pet so as not to frighten them and risk getting bitten. The vet will be able to give you a demonstration
  • Feed dried food. There are prescription diets available that are specifically designed to maintain oral health.
  • Feed your pet dental chews but remember to factor them into your pets' daily ration to avoid weight gain


It is important the right diet is offered to pet rabbits so as to keep the teeth working hard and help prevent them from overgrowing and becoming a problem. If they do become overlong they curl into the gums and teeth causing big problems with eating. Routine examination of pet rabbits should be carried out by the owner (an adult not a child). If the teeth appear to be causing a problem it is important your take the rabbit for a veterinary health check.

Signs of dental problems:

  • Decreased appetite, weight loss
  • Saliva or food build-up under chin, near lips, on the inside of the front legs
  • Reluctance to eat hard food
  • Bad Breath
  • Lump on the outer cheek, under the eye
  • Lump under lower jaws (lumps start small, but can get very large)
  • Discharge from cheek or chin/lower jaw area
  • Incisors that are uneven (gently lift upper lip to check incisors). If uneven incisors are present, there is a very good chance that the cheek teeth are abnormal as well

Elderly Cats

Cats today are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. With improved healthcare and preventive medicine programs, we are seeing more and more cats live to their upper teens and early twenties. Because changes in body condition and daily behaviors can be subtle, we rely on careful observations by you, their caretakers.

Cats are considered to be 'senior' when they are 8 years or older. Many owners view ageing as a ‘normal’ process and feel that nothing will help their cat, and some owners worry about mentioning problems they’ve noticed in their older cat as they fear the vet will say it’s serious or that the cat may need to be euthanased.

However, these concerns are often unfounded and your vet is there to help wherever they can. Talk to your vet to discuss any concerns you may have. It is very important to take your older cat to see the vet regularly to ensure they are not suffering or in hidden pain – there are lots of treatments available for many of the issues.

You’ll want them to enjoy their golden years free from discomfort.

What happens during ageing?

  • Activity levels decrease and muscle tone reduces
  • Appetite and/or fluid intake may change
  • Vision and/or hearing may not be as acute
  • Tartar build up can cause gum and dental disease including gingivitis and cavities.
  • Bowel and urinary system functions may change
  • The immune system may weaken
  • Light sleep may increase but deep sleep decreases
  • Coat condition may deteriorate
  • Age-associated disorders may develop, such as arthritis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or renal impairment
  • Psychological and behavioural changes can occur, such as senility, aggression, increased dependence or excessive vocalisation

When to take your cat to the vet

In addition to your regular pet health checks, your cat should be seen by a vet if there are changes to their:

  • General health
  • Appetite and/or thirst
  • Elimination of faeces and/or urine
  • Mobility/activity or if they seem to be in pain
  • Behaviour – including vocalisation or grumpiness. Reduced interaction with you or other pets can be a sign that not all is well with your pet’s health

The following indicates some health issues to watch out for, that elderly cats can be predisposed to:

  1. Senility and cognitive dysfunction
  2. Cognitive dysfunction is a decline in higher brain functions, including memory and learning that often occurs with old age

 Signs include:

  • Disorientation
  • Changes in social and environmental interaction
  • Changes in sleeping/waking patterns, such as sleeping more during the day and being restless at night
  • Vocalisation
  • House soiling

If you have noticed any changes in your cat’s behaviour, take them to your vets for a health check, discussing the behaviour changes with your vet in as much detail as you can.


Cats can experience changes in bowel habits as they grow older, including constipation. Signs of constipation include decreased frequency of passing faeces, straining to pass, pain and/or crying when trying to and passing hard faeces. You must ensure your cat always has access to fresh water – speak to your vet for dietary and treatment advice.


Deaf cats compensate for their lack of hearing by using their other senses, so deafness in cats often goes unnoticed.
Signs of deafness may include:

  • No response when called or to loud sounds
  • Being easily startled
  • Loud miaowing
  • Signs of dizziness or disorientation

Signs of ear disease which may cause deafness include:

  • Shaking the head
  • Clawing at the ear
  • Pus, discharge or an unpleasant odour from the ear

Dental disease

Older cats need regular dental health checks to check for signs of dental disease, including tartar build up and red, inflamed gums. Speak to your vet about health checks and preventative care for your cat’s teeth.

Diabetes mellitus

This condition affects the control of blood sugar levels and usually occurs in middle-aged and older cats, particularly those that are overweight.
The signs of diabetes can be similar to a number of other diseases and include:

  • Increased thirst and/or appetite
  • Passing more urine
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Being more prone to other infections eg skin or urinary tract infections

Diabetes is often treated more successfully if detected and treated in the early stages


The thyroid is made up of two glands located on either side of the windpipe at the base of your cat’s neck. It helps to regulate metabolic rate. In some cats, the thyroid becomes overactive which speeds up the metabolism. Hyperthyroidism mainly affects cats over the age of 10 and can occur in either or both of the glands.

The signs may vary from cat to cat, but most commonly include:

  • Increased appetite and/or thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Behavioural changes such as hyperactivity, restlessness and being more vocal
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Poor coat condition

If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to see your vet for a health check. Once a cat is treated for hyperthyroidism, they will return to normal fairly quickly in most cases. If the disease has been detected and treated early on the cat often lives several more years. Untreated, it can damage other organs.

Kidney disease

Disease of the kidneys is one of the most common problems affecting middle-aged and older cats. Unfortunately, damage to the kidneys is irreversible and tends to worsen over a period of time. However, with the help of various treatments, affected cats can often maintain a good quality of life for several months or years. Most cats do not show signs of chronic kidney disease until 75 per cent of the kidneys have been damaged.

Signs can vary between individuals but the most common signs are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Passing more urine
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Bad breath

Many vets will try to diagnose kidney disease in its early stages, before clinical signs develop, by offering cat owners the option of urine and blood tests for their older cats at routine checkups or vaccinations. By doing this, early dietary management or other treatment may significantly extend an affected cat’s life expectancy and quality of life.


In cats, high blood pressure – known as hypertension – often occurs in association with another underlying disease – for example, cats suffering from kidney disease or hyperthyroidism often have some degree of hypertension as well. It can also occur as a primary problem in itself. The organs most vulnerable to the effects of high blood pressure are the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. Initially there may be very few signs of high blood pressure, particularly if it is the primary problem but sometimes the signs can occur very suddenly.
Signs of hypertension include:

  • Blindness
  • Changes inside the eye, including bleeding
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures

Many cats can go on to lead relatively normal lives following diagnosis and stabilisation of hypertension, but this will depend on the type and severity of any underlying disease. If left untreated, these signs can become permanent so seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.


The term ‘arthritis’ means inflammation of the joint and this condition is extremely common in cats. However, it often goes unnoticed as owners think the cat is just slowing down with age, when it is actually a very painful condition. It is worth getting your cat checked regularly as treating chronic problems like arthritis will make a huge difference to their quality of life.
The main signs shown in cats are:

  • A change in behaviour, for example:  grumpiness, reduced interaction or tolerance with people – the discomfort associated with arthritis can be a cause of aggression in cats
  • Not using the litter tray if the sides of the tray are too high for your cat to easily get into
  • Reduced interest in play
  • Difficulty grooming, especially the middle of the back and tail
  • Increased stiffness immediately after resting which gets better with movement
  • Stiffness, lameness and reduced mobility – an unwillingness to jump or climb

If your cat is overweight, this can make arthritis worse so it is very important to ensure they maintain an ideal weight. Regular, moderate exercise will also help – play is the best way to achieve this. Arthritis is an ongoing problem and cannot be cured. However, in many cases it can be managed successfully allowing your cat to be mobile, pain-free and to lead a reasonably active life.


Cats can develop different types of tumours which may either be benign – not usually harmful – or malignant – faster growing and usually harmful. Sometimes the tumours can spread to other areas of the body. It is a good idea to regularly feel all over your cat’s body for any lumps or bumps. Other signs of cancer vary dependent on the organ affected, but can include weight loss, increased thirst, passing more urine, depression, poor coat condition, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

Elderly Dogs

Dogs over the age of 8 are considered by some to be old, but this depends a lot on the breed. The ‘average’ life expectancy of a dog is 13 years, however smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds. Old age brings many changes; some sudden, others gradual, and you will need to be on the lookout for those that signal problems and be prepared to make allowances for those little inconveniences that come with caring for an elderly dog. By preparing for their later years, we can all enhance the quality of life that they deserve.


  • As they become less active, older dogs can be prone to putting on weight. Switching to a complete senior diet that may be lower in protein or fat will help keep extra weight off
  • Feeding smaller meals 2 or 3 times a day can be good but watch out for those in-between meal snacks or scraps
  • If your dog suffers from neck or back pain raising the food and water bowl will reduce discomfort


  • Older dogs can become less energetic and sleep more. On walks let your dog set the pace. Try to go for frequent short walks instead of one long one
  • Your dog may not want to go on long hikes as he gets older but it is still important to exercise him enough so that he stays fit. His daily walks will give him mental stimulation and keep his joints mobile
  • He may show signs joint stiffness in the morning or after strenuous exercise so ensure he has a comfy bed to sleep on
  • You may want to provide ramps to help them navigate stairs or a car to ease the difficulties they may face


  • Older dogs may struggle with their sight and hearing
  • Twice yearly veterinary check-ups are essential for an ageing dog
  • Your dog’s eyes may appear cloudy, which could mean that he has old age changes or cataracts. Seek veterinary advice on this
  • Most dogs adjust to failing sight, since it is usually a gradual process. Try to avoid moving the furniture in your house and leaving objects in his way. Keep him on the lead during exercise, especially near roads
  • Your dog may lose the ability to hear certain sounds. He may for example be able to hear a whistle, but not his owner’s voice. Be creative in developing new forms of communication with your dog
  • You will need to pay particular attention to the condition of his teeth and the length of his nails. His nails will be less worn as his walks get shorter
  • If your dog hasn’t been neutered already, there may still be benefits in doing so at an older age. Seek veterinary advice on this
  • Your dog’s coat may change in condition. Daily grooming will be good for his coat and is a great opportunity for you to check him over for any new lumps or bumps that may indicate a problem


  • To help your dog remain mentally active try to provide new and interesting aspects into his routine. Make plenty of time for games and interaction with him
  • Older dogs may start to exhibit symptoms of senility including compulsive behaviours. Seek advice from your vet at the first sign of behavioural changes
  • Your dog may begin to bark more often; this may be because something is troubling him, or because he is going deaf. Seek veterinary advice on this
  • As dogs get older they can become less tolerant. It is important to respect your dog’s space


Welcome to the world of rabbit ownership. It’s joyful, fun, interesting, sometimes very worrying and certainly all-absorbing. Rabbits can make wonderful pets but there is more to looking after them properly than many people realise.

The first thing to note is that rabbits are not cheap and easy children’s pets, they have complicated needs.

Under the fur, pet rabbits are exactly the same as wild rabbits. If you are thinking of taking on rabbits, please check if rabbits are right for you before jumping in.

Its also worth considering the long terms costs. Rabbits are not a cheap pet to keep: they can cost £11,000 over their lifetime.

If you have just become a rabbit owner then this page gives you the basics on what you’ll need to consider to give your new pets the lives they deserve. The more you put in, the more rewarding your experience will be.

The 5 freedoms

You must give your rabbits the freedom to:

  • Display their natural behaviours including running, jumping, digging, foraging and rearing up on their hind legs
  • Have a natural diet. This should be made up of 85% hay or grass, 10% leafy green veg, 5% extruded pellets or nuggets (about an egg-cup full)
  • Have the companionship of at least one other rabbit.  Studies have shown that rabbits value companionship as much as food. It is cruel to keep a rabbit alone, it should have the company of another neutered rabbit
  • Live in the right accommodation. Rabbits need a large, secure enclosure that gives them the space to exercise and display their natural behaviours. Their total space should be 10ft by 6ft and at least 3ft tall.  A hutch should be at least 6ft by 2ft by 2ft and be attached to an exercise run permanently
  • Be healthy rabbits. Your rabbits must be neutered (castrated for males or spayed for females) and their vaccinations kept up to date. You’ll need to register with a rabbit-savvy vet and carry out regular health checks to make sure your rabbits are in good shape. As part of their make-up as a prey animal, when rabbits are unwell they often don’t show it so you need to be vigilant

Rabbits are sociable

Wild rabbits live in colonies, never on their own. Pet rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups. Recent scientific research has confirmed that rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone: they value companionship as much as food – and you wouldn’t keep them without food, would you? If you have a single rabbit check your local rescue centre for a friend for your bunny.

Rabbits are active

They need plenty of space, including a spacious and safe exercise area that is permanently attached to their hutch or cage. In addition, they’d really enjoy free run of the garden or rabbit proofed parts of the house) when supervised. Cages/hutches should be regarded as burrows to rest in as part of a larger living area, not prisons! In the wild they run about for several hours every day.

Rabbits can live indoors as house rabbits, or outdoors in a large hutch that has an exercise run attached to it.

There are lots of options: indoor cages of different designs; adapted wooden playhouses for the garden; and various combinations of runs attached to hutches. Whichever you choose, you will need to adapt part of the house and/or the garden for your pets. Check out our housing section for advice on accommodation for your rabbits.

Rabbits eat grass (or hay)

Rabbits should be fed in a way that is as close as possible to their natural diet: mostly grass or hay. In fact, rabbits could live on hay and water alone, but we recommend providing some fresh leafy vegetables and a small amount of commercial feed (not muesli). The long fibre of grass or hay is vital to their digestive, behavioural and dental health.

Rabbits are prey animals

Because rabbits are preyed upon by many other species (dogs, cats, foxes and even humans), they are naturally shy, quiet animals who hate being held above ground level. They do not like to be picked up and carried around, so children should be encouraged to interact with them at ground level instead. Gaining the trust of a rabbit takes time and effort. If your child is looking for something soft and cuddly to pick up then buy a fluffy toy, a rabbit is not for them.

Rabbits don’t like loud noises or sudden movements, so don’t terrify your pets with loud music and rowdy games. Keep toddlers away – their jerky movements are very scary to bunnies. Rabbits don’t like being picked up (the only time a wild rabbit gets picked up is if it is about to be eaten by a fox) and they have large teeth and claws, which they’ll use if they are scared or angry.

Rabbits need a good vet

Wild rabbits don’t live very long…but a well cared for pet rabbit can live a very long time- 10 years or more. You need to find a good rabbit vet. Even healthy bunnies need to see the vet regularly (just like humans, they need to be immunised against deadly diseases) and if your rabbits are ever injured or ill they will need rapid veterinary care. It’s also important for pet rabbits to be neutered.

You’ll need to visit the vet at least once a year for their vaccinations, but it’s useful to have at least one more check-up during the year. We hope those are the only visits you’ll need to make to the vet, but having a rabbit-savvy vet is vital so make sure yours is. A great vet is your pet’s very best friend.

Can they dig it?

Rabbits love to chew and dig – it’s what they do when making burrows. Pet rabbits need things to chew (eg hay; apple or willow twigs; kitchen roll inner tubes stuffed with hay and grass) and somewhere to dig. You can make a “digging box” by putting peat into a cardboard box and cutting a hole half way up the side.  Let your rabbits play in a sandpit; or just accept they are likely to burrow in the garden, and make it secure to avoid escapes.

Hide and seek

Rabbits are inquisitive, and love exploring. This is because wild rabbits always need to know the quickest way back to their burrow, and where to find the best food. Rabbits like to climb into (and onto) new toys. So give them cardboard boxes, large pipes, or bits of rolled up carpet to play with. They also like searching for tasty food, so you can hide titbits and watch your bunnies hunting for them! Rabbits like somewhere to hide – wild rabbits use their burrows both as a safe haven in times of danger, and as a place to relax in safety. Bunnies need a dark hidey-hole where they can chill out in peace. Never force your rabbits to come out of their hidey-hole: they will become frightened of you, and may bite or scratch in protest.

Indoor rabbits

Indoor rabbits need at least as much space as they do outdoors. They must be kept safe from any other pets – cats and dogs to them are predators, no matter how friendly they may seem to you. They need to be safe from eating electric cables too, or anything else in the home that might harm them – house plants for example. They should have a comfortable climate, not too hot and not too cold, and they need to be safe from escape when you open the front door.

Have a routine

Without making things boring for you or your rabbits, have a routine so that things don’t get forgotten. Breakfast time means rabbit feeding, changing water, some cage/hutch cleaning and checking their bodies for any problems like dirty bottoms. Work out what you have time to do before going to work.

Evening may be when you have more time and a full clean of their home may be easier then. Check water again, give them more hay – they can never have too much – check their bodies again, move toys around, check their home is secure and just spend time with them and enjoy their company.

Common illnesses

Because rabbits are prey animals they will hide symptoms of illness for as long as possible so if you have any concerns about your rabbits’ health then you must seek vet advice as soon as possible.

There are two very common illnesses caused by viruses that are fatal for unvaccinated rabbits. They are Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (1+2). Wherever your rabbits live they can catch either disease, so vaccination is essential for all rabbits. Vaccinations need to be repeated at least every year.

Rabbits can’t catch cold but if you see them looking like they have, that is called snuffles. It’s caused by bacteria.

Head-tilt looks exactly as you might expect from the name, the rabbit’s head tilts over to one side and it’s unable to straighten up. There may be a loss of balance, weakness in the hind legs, incontinence and if it’s severe, spinning and rolling. This, and going off their back legs, can be caused by a brain parasite named E. cuniculi, for which treatment is available. Ear infections (especially lop breeds) can also cause head tilt, therefore regular ear checks from your vet are vital.

Dental disease is a common problem. Often poor diet is to blame. Rabbits need to eat hay, hay and more hay. Grass is much the same thing as hay, with a higher water content, but grass clippings from the lawnmower should never be fed, as they ferment and cause gastrointestinal disease. Every rabbit should eat its own body size or more in hay every day to keep the gut healthy but just as importantly to keep teeth ground down. So between 80% and 85% of what they eat should be hay or grass.

If you find a lump or an oozing spot then it may well be an abscess. These can be extremely serious and need to be treated as early as possible so you must take your rabbit straight to your vet.

Rabbits are about as susceptible to cancer as humans are. The biggest risk is uterine cancer in females. This can be avoided completely by having your female rabbits spayed. By the age of 4, the majority of unspayed females will have uterine cancer, so please make sure yours isn’t one of those.

You need to budget for the cost of healthcare throughout your rabbit’s lifetime. Make sure you have set aside funds for potential treatments and consider insurance and healthcare plans.

Lumps & Bumps

Lumps and bumps are commonly found on our pets. But the question is should you worry?

It is best to get every lump checked by a veterinary surgeon who can run any necessary tests to provide a diagnosis.

A lot of lumps can be fatty tumours, most are benign, meaning not cancerous. Fewer than half of lumps and bumps you find on a pet are malignant, or cancerous. Unless you’re sure about the cause of a lump or bump, bring your pet in for an examination.
If you see fast growth, redness, swelling, pus, an opening, or if the dog is in pain, make that appointment even sooner.

If you have found a lump on your pet we will want to know the following:

  • Has the lump appeared suddenly?
  • Has its shape, colour or size changed?
  • Have your pet’s behaviour, appetite or energy levels changed?

The easiest way to identify the type of lump is to remove some cells from it with a fine needle. We will then look at them under the microscope. Sometimes we can tell right away if it’s a fatty tumour. If this is not the case we will send the cells to an external laboratory for analysis.

The most common lumps found are:

  • Cysts are blocked oil glands that looks like pimples. When they burst, a white, pasty substance comes out
  • Warts are caused by a virus and can be found around the mouths of young dogs. Older dogs might need surgery to remove them
  • Abscesses are a build-up of pus under the skin. They can be caused by an insect bite or an infection. These are commonly seen in cats who have been fighting
  • Mast cell tumours are the most common skin cancers in dogs. They’re most often found in Boxers, Boston terriers, Labradors, Beagles, and Schnauzers
  • Fatty tumours which occur most often in older dogs, especially around the ribs, although they can show up anywhere. They’re considered a natural part of ageing. Any breed can have them, but larger dogs and those who are overweight are more prone to them. Usually no treatment is needed, unless they give the dog pain or cause trouble with moving around

If your pet has a lump, even if you find out it isn’t cancerous, keep a close eye out for others, and have new ones tested.

We will likely advise that you keep a chart of their location and size to make it easier to keep track of what’s new and what’s changed.

Top tips for Pet Insurance

Although some pets may go through life without any major problems, others may find themselves in need of emergency or ongoing veterinary care. And the costs quickly add up.

One of the best ways to prepare for unexpected bills is to have pet insurance. However the variety and complexity of different policies can be confusing. To help you, we’ve put together this handy jargon-buster so your four-legged friend gets the perfect cover.

  • Accident only insurance: these policies only cover your pet for accidents, NOT illnesses, but premiums are usually cheaper as a result
  • Third party insurance: usually only available for dogs, this will cover you if your dog damages another person’s property, or causes personal injury in any way
  • Excess: the amount you will have to pay when you make a claim. This could be a set figure or a percentage of the total claim (known as co-insurance), or both. There can be ‘compulsory excess’ (set by the insurer) and ‘voluntary excess’ (where you decide the amount). By agreeing a higher excess you could reduce the cost of the policy premiums. Just make sure it’s still affordable for you. Excess's usually apply per condition and per policy year, if you continue to claim for a on-going condition into a new policy year
  • Lifetime cover: this type of policy will usually cover your pet against any new accidents and illnesses for their entire life (as long as the policy is active). As a result, it will generally cost a bit more, but will offer you full peace of mind. Check if there are any restrictions. For example, does it restrict how much you can claim in any single year, or how much you can claim against any single illness or injury or are there restrictions on certain procedures?
  • Elective procedure: treatment that isn’t absolutely necessary for your pet’s well-being, it’s chosen rather than ‘essential’. For instance, neutering a healthy pet would usually be considered ‘elective’. Having your pet neutered could lower the cost of your insurance premium, however. Elective procedures are not usually covered by insurance companies
  • Deferment/Exclusion period: this refers to the time between the start date of the policy and the date from which you’ll be able to make a claim. This is usually between 10-14 days but could be longer, so it’s best to arrange insurance as soon as you can, rather than waiting
  • Maximum benefit: this means a set limit on claims for each illness or injury. There are no time restraints but once you reach the stated limit, the insurer won’t pay any further claims for that particular condition
  • Pre-existing condition: any condition that has already been diagnosed by a vet, or is known to you, before taking out the insurance. Many policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, which is why vets recommend taking out insurance when your pet is young
  • Premium: the monthly or annual fee you’ll pay for your pet’s insurance. The average cost is about £20 per month, but this varies widely and will depend on your pet’s circumstances, for instance their age and breed. Keeping your pet up to date with routine treatment, such as vaccinations, flea and worming, can help to keep your premium lower, depending on your policy
  • Pre-authorisation: the only way to guarantee that treatment for your pet will be covered by your insurance company, before the treatment is carried out. Not all insurance companies offer this service but if they do it will give you peace of mind especially if the treatment is expensive
  • Time limited: this means there is a set time period (usually 12 months) from the onset of a condition that you will be able to make claims. There may also be a limit on the amount you can claim during this period

Remember that your pet’s insurance cover will only remain active as long as you renew at the end of each policy period (usually a year), and you make the payments on time, also be aware that change insurance providers will usually mean that any pre-existing conditions will not be covered by the new insurance company.

Owning a pet is a hugely rewarding experience. In return for their unconditional love it’s our responsibility to make sure they live a happy and healthy life. Pet insurance not only offers peace of mind, it protects our pets from any unnecessary pain and suffering by providing the treatment they need, when they need it.