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Caring for your Dog

Some helpful info and insights

Whether you’ve owned a dog before or this is your very first canine companion, we’re on hand to offer all the help and essential healthcare services you’ll need.


Why I should vaccinate my puppy?

Your puppy’s maternal immunity (initially provided by his or her mother through the milk) starts declining at 6 weeks of age, so they are soon left on their own to resist viral disease. We do not compromise on protection and use 'Nobivac'. It offers enhanced protection against many diseases and allows early socialisation of your puppy. Vaccinations are essential to protect your puppy against the following diseases:

Parvo Virus:

Parvovirus causes exhausting vomiting and diarrhoea, which ends up being lethal in most cases. It’s very common in spring and autumn, with low survival rates regardless of aggressive treatment.

We see several cases of Parvovirus every year. It’s found in high concentration in the faeces of infected dogs, and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergent and alcohol – and so remains stable in the environment for several months. It is very easily transmitted via the hair, coat or feet of dogs or contaminated shoes, clothes and objects from humans. Direct contact from dog to dog is not required to spread parvovirus.

Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which may or may not contain blood, loss of appetite, depression and fever. Young puppies are the most severely affected dogs and the most difficult to treat successfully. To treat Parvovirus, aggressive intervention is required before severe septicaemia and dehydration occur. Parvovirus is often fatal, so it’s essential to protect your pet through vaccination. In the case of young puppies, a ‘top up’ vaccine is advised at 18 weeks of age.

The vaccine we use provides the earliest protection possible against Parvo Virus.


Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease in dogs. It’s spread mainly via direct contact but coughing can also spread the virus over short distances. Although symptoms can vary, the main signs are fever, loss of appetite, thick yellow discharge from nose and eyes, coughing and seizures. Intensive care is usually essential in treating Distemper, and even then it is often a fatal disease. Vaccination to protect your dog in the first place is vital.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs that affects blood, liver or kidneys. It’s spread in urine, either from infected rats or dogs. Even dogs that have recovered can become carriers and continue to spread infection. Leptospirosis is also present in waterways across the UK, from contamination with rat urine.

There are a few variations of the disease but acute cases can be life-threatening. The disease can cause bleeding, liver failure, kidney failure and fever. Bloody diarrhoea and vomiting are common and this type can be rapidly fatal. Treatment is given with antibiotics if diagnosed early enough. However, dogs are often so ill when presented that hospitalisation with intravenous fluids is necessary.

We use a new 'L4' vaccine that protects against the latest strains, including the one that has been in hte press recently as it has been blamed for deaths in the Bristol area.

Vaccination has helped to reduce the spread of this disease, but at St George’s we still see 2-3 cases each year (in unvaccinated dogs). Vaccination only protects your dog against Leptospirosis for a year, so you need to keep up-to-date with the boosters.

Infectious Hepatitis:

Infectious Hepatitis is an acute liver infection. It can be spread in the faeces, urine, blood, saliva and nasal discharge of infected dogs. Symptoms include fever, depression, coughing and a tender abdomen. Severe cases will develop bleeding disorders. Death can occur secondary to this or the liver disease. Most dogs recover after a brief illness, although chronic corneal oedema (blue eye) and kidney problems may persist. Steam cleaning can kill the virus, but the virus itself can survive in the environment for months in the right conditions. It can also be released in the urine of a recovered dog for up to a year.


Canine Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is one of the causes of ‘kennel cough’. The dog will have a dry, unproductive, persistent cough lasting up to 21 days. Any type of activity or excitement may intensify the condition. A runny nasal discharge will also be present. The dog will have difficulty breathing, and laboured panting will also be more noticeable after any type of physical activity. Although fairly straightforward to treat, prevention with vaccination is much kinder for your dog than suffering through three weeks' of coughing.


What is neutering?

Neutering female dogs is also referred to as spaying. It involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Neutering males is also referred to as castration. It involves the removal of the dog’s testes.

Why should I neuter my dog?

  • Neutering your dog prevents unwanted puppies.
  • It has been proven that neutering bitches greatly reduces the chances of mammary cancers.
  • A common condition in un-neutered female dogs is pyometra – this is a life-threatening infection of the uterus, which is entirely preventable by neutering.
  • For male dogs, castration reduces wandering, can help improve some behavioural issues, negates the possibility of testicular tumours, and also greatly reduces prostate problems, which can be a problem in the older un-neutered dog.

What happens when my dog comes in to be neutered?

The nurse will see you on the morning of the operation to admit your dog for the day. They’ll make sure your dog has been well recently and is fine to have the operation, and also check that we have the correct contact information for you. We ask that your dog is fed before 8pm the night before the operation and has no breakfast, so they don’t vomit/regurgitate when under the anaesthetic. They can have water at all times as normal.

Once the nurse has admitted your dog, they will be taken to their kennel room, made comfortable with padded bedding and given lots of fuss and encouragement to try to reassure them. There will also be a nurse in the kennel area during recovery to look after your dog.

The vet who’ll perform the operation will examine your dog prior to giving them an injection of a mild sedative to help keep them calm and ease the induction of anaesthesia. Your pet will also be given an injection for pain relief. Once your dog is nicely sleepy, the nurse and vet will lead or carry them into the prep room to place an intravenous catheter. They will always talk to the animal throughout to try to put him or her at ease.

Throughout the general anaesthetic and on recovery, your dog will be monitored by the nurse. Once awake, they will be returned to their bed to be looked after by the kennel nurse, who makes sure they’re warm and cosy and comfortable. When they’re fully awake, a small meal is offered.

When you collect your dog to take them home that evening, they’ll be wearing an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from licking the surgical wound, and be delivered to you with a tin or sachet of a light, palatable food that’s easy on the stomach. The nurse will go through the required post-operative care in the discharge appointment with you – feeding, exercise and administration of pain relief medication, for example.

We may request a 3-day post-op check-up with the nurse to ensure your dog is doing well, is happy and comfortable, and that his or her wound is healing nicely.

Fleas & Worms

It’s important to provide regular worm and flea treatment for your dog…

Worms are parasites found within the gut of your dog. Roundworms look like pieces of string, tapeworms like grains of rice. While few dogs actually pass live worms, most excrete eggs, which are too small to be seen with the naked eye. It’s the eggs of the roundworm Toxocara that pose such a threat to human health. These invisible time bombs stay infective in the soil for years. This is where the danger lies, particularly for children playing ball games outside, as the microscopic eggs can get onto their hands and under their nails and very quickly transferred into their mouth. About 300 people each year have their sight impaired through picking up a Toxocara egg.

Worm eggs or larvae can be picked up on your dog’s paws and coat and are then ingested when your dog grooms itself. Puppies will pick up a heavy worm burden from their mothers.

Recently there has been considerable attention given to lungworm. This is a not uncommon cause of serious illness in dogs. Light infestations may go unnoticed. However, with heavy infestation, your dog may suffer vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, leading to loss of condition. In addition, a heavy worm burden may weaken your pet’s immune system, making them susceptible to infection. The migrating larvae of some worms can even cause lung damage.

There is a variety of treatments for both fleas and worms available on the market. Our advice to you is to use a veterinary specific product. This is because a large proportion of treatments that are available in pet shops and supermarkets only have a limited effect. In some cases, they can even cause serious side effects. All flea and worm treatments from your vets are licensed and are a lot more effective – making them much better value for money in the long run!

If you are unsure about which product you need, please speak to any of our Pet Healthcare Nurses, who’ll advise you or even administer the treatment for you.

Dog fleas – the facts!

Flea bites cause your dog discomfort and irritation and can lead to skin infections. Fleas can also bite you and your family, as well as causing health problems for your pet, including transmitting tapeworms!

It’s important to treat not only the affected pet, but all pets in the household. Fleas spend a lot of time living in soft furnishings, such as your carpets, sofa, curtains and bedding. It’s just as important to treat your house with a household spray that will kill any eggs and larvae. These products can also be picked up from your local surgery.


We’re always on hand to offer advice about the most appropriate options…

Selecting the correct diet for your dog can be a struggle, because pet shops, supermarkets and vet clinics stock various types, brands and qualities of foods. But we’re always happy to offer advice…

There are a few things to consider when selecting pet food – and price or convenience may not be the most important reason for purchasing a particular brand of pet food.


Diet Types:

  • Dry diets – These are commonly referred to as biscuits, which are medium quality and are baked. Many owners are attracted to the colours and shapes of the biscuits, but your pet doesn’t really see or taste any difference. Kibbles are the best dry food to choose as they are made to suit different jaw sizes, different stages of life and are highly digestible. This means that less waste is produced, as your dog will digest all of the nutrients and ingredients in the kibble. It is also a great advantage to dental health.

  • Wet food – A large number of wet foods are not a complete diet and should be fed alongside another type of food to give your dog the correct amount of nutrition. As wet food is around 70% water, this can cause more waste material to be produced.

  • Homemade diets – This is very involved for the owner and means making and cooking the appropriate food from a recipe. This can be a problem, as nutritional imbalance can occur if all the elements are not there. 


Diet Quality:

The quality of your dog’s diet is rated by many factors. Pet food is typically broken down into three categories:

  • Economy foods – these are the bottom end of the scale in terms of price and quality. The appeal to your dog, as well as its ability to digest the food, will be low and there are no added extras in term of beneficial ingredients. These foods are cereal based and the feeding volumes will be very high to meet your dog’s energy needs. 

  • Premium foods – This is the middle ground for pet foods and is more commonly found in supermarkets and sometimes pet shops. The packaging is very attractive and the food inside is of a reasonable standard. Care needs to be taken when selecting a diet, as colours and preservatives in these foods can cause hyperactivity in some animals. 

  • Super premium foods – This is the best money can buy and the manufacturer uses all the best ingredients to produce this food. All the ingredients are very easy for your dog to digest as well as having a high level of attraction as a foodstuff. As everything is so digestible, the feeding amounts of these foods are much less than other foods, so in the long term they can save you money. These foods are normally found in pet stores and veterinary clinics. They are normally tailored to the size and stage of life your dog is at, as well as being fixed in formula. This means that all batches of the products are made the same and from the same ingredients – so there’ll be no digestive upsets when you switch from one bag to another. 



There is a misconception that pets become bored with foods if they are fed the same thing day in, day out.  Some pet foods have acknowledged this and market foods in different flavours. This can be very misleading, as to be called that flavour, that particular ingredient only has to make up around 4% of the food. This means that three packs of food all labelled as a different flavour can contain the same primary ingredients. Pets do not choose foods on flavour – dogs only have around 1,700 taste buds (humans have 9,000). This means that they choose foods according to texture and smell. Dogs are attracted to high fat foods, as they use fats as their main source of energy. 


A Note on Neutering!

Once your dog is neutered, it will require 1/3 fewer calories than before the operation. If you’re not aware of this, it can often lead to obesity after surgery. This can be prevented with careful food management or by introducing a special neutered diet. These diets are perfectly tailored to prevent weight gain along with maintaining a decent amount of food for your dog so the amount of food does not need to be reduced. There are also products that promote correct growth as some animals are still growing at the time of neutering. We stock various neutered diets at your local surgery, so please ask for advice if you’re interested.


Teaching your puppy socialisation skills is crucial and should ideally begin from just 4 weeks of age. But at this time, in most cases, you won’t even be in ownership of the puppy! What you can do, however, is be sure to enable and encourage the best start possible for your puppy by engaging in an active training plan as soon as you do start living together. This will help to ensure that you don’t have to encounter training and behaviour problems as they grow up.

As well as encouraging you to attend our puppy parties, we can offer an additional behaviour and training service with our FREE nurse appointments available at all of our branches.