Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Castrating Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Why is it important?

In the wild, all male dogs remain entire and fertile throughout their lives. However, the price of that is an increased vulnerability to some diseases and injuries, and some behaviours that we, as owners, don’t find attractive. Neutering is the most common surgical procedure carried out on dogs, and it is now commonplace. If you’re trying to decide whether to get your dog “done”, it’s worth looking at the arguments for it, against it, and then looking at the procedure.

What are the disadvantages?

  • More or less by definition, a castrated dog’s fertility is removed, so you can’t change your mind. (HOWEVER, remember that he may still have some sperm “left over” for several weeks after the operation, should he get the chance to “use” them!)
  • There is a very slight increase in the risk of some rare tumours (about 0.4% extra cases of prostate cancer, and 6 extra cases of bone cancer per 100,000 dogs), although this may be more important in dogs already predisposed to these conditions.
  • There is an increased risk of orthopaedic injuries (double the risk of cruciate ligament injuries, possibly an increased risk of hip dysplasia, and because the growth plates in the bones are closed by puberty, they stay open longer meaning an increased risk of certain types of fractures).
  • Weight gain – castrated dogs need less calories than entire ones, so you need to feed them less or they’ll put on weight!
  • Risk of surgery – perhaps 0.1% chance of a serious complication.

And the advantages?

  • No unwanted pregnancies.
  • Reduction in behaviour owners often dislike, such as running off to look for bitches in heat (which increases their risk of road accidents), less sexual behaviour such as masturbation and humping (although it won’t be entirely eliminated), and some types of aggression may be reduced in some dogs.
  • No risk of testicular cancer (no testicles = no cancer!) – this affects between 1.5% and 16% of entire dogs.
  • Massively reduced risk of other prostate diseases, hernias and certain cancers of the bottom.
  • Lifespan – a castrated dog will, on average, live 14% longer than an entire one.

How do I decide?

Ultimately, you have to make the decision, but we can support you with the facts! Talk to your vet if you want personalised health advice for your dog.

So, when you’ve made up your mind to have your dog neutered, what is the procedure?

Castrating a dog is a very simple surgery (unlike spaying a bitch), because his reproductive organs are conveniently located outside his body. In the procedure, his testicles are removed (so it is NOT the same as a vasectomy, where the testicles remain in situ but the tubes carrying sperm from them are cut) preventing him from making either sperm or testosterone – essentially returning his hormone balance to that of a prepubescent puppy. There is no evidence that dogs miss their testicles once they’re gone, nor does castration per se have any effect on their personality or psychological development.

So, what actually happens?

The night before the procedure, it’s important he be starved – talk to our nurses who will advise you on how long, but in general, no food after 6pm and no water after 10pm. When you bring him in the next morning, we’ll carefully check him over for any problems that might affect his surgery, and then we’ll give him a pre-med injection (a combination of mild sedative to help him relax and a painkiller for afterwards). Then, when we’re ready, we will give him a general anaesthetic, so he is completely asleep, and pass a breathing tube down his throat to help him breathe. The nurse will scrub the area around his scrotum (ball sack) while the vet scrubs up, and then they’ll begin. It takes perhaps 15 minutes (a very quick procedure!) as a small incision is made in front of the scrotum, and one at a time the testicles are pulled out of this, clamped and cut off. The arteries and spermatic cords are then tied off with dissolvable stitches, and the skin sutured closed. Remember, the scrotum is NOT removed – it is normal for your dog to go home with an empty pouch of skin between their back legs.

How long will it take him to recover?

As soon as he’s awake he can go home with a collar on to stop him licking at the wounds until they’ve healed. Most dogs are completely back to normal in a day or so, but it is important to restrict their exercise until the skin stitches come out, roughly 10 days later!

In conclusion…

Neutering of male dogs does prevent some unpleasant diseases and increases lifespan by about 14%. However, there are arguments both ways, and you have to make up your mind about your own dog and what would be best for him

Give your puppy a good start during lockdown

Many people will have got a puppy during this past year of lockdowns which makes socialisation training a little more difficult than it would be in normal times. However, there are a number of steps you can take despite this, to ensure they have a great start to their new life with you.

Between 12 and 18 weeks of age, puppies can be very sensitive to the world around them. They may feel scared of being away from their litter and in a completely unknown new environment. At this age they need to be introduced to any new people, environments and situations in as positive a way as possible. This will help their understanding of the world as they grow up.

Dogs may otherwise grow to be fearful of the world around them. This can lead to unwanted behaviours later in life such as guarding, aggressive responses and anxiety in certain situations.

Exposure to the outside world

It is very important that you differentiate between puppies who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

  • Those who have been vaccinated can walk around on the lead.
  • Those who have not yet been vaccinated should always be carried in your arms, in a bag or in a pram.

Puppies need to be exposed to the world outside their homes so that they can get used to sounds, sights, smells, situations and interactions with different people and animals.

Puppies who don’t experience this exposure can become easily frightened and, in a worst case scenario, can become agoraphobic. If your puppy has been vaccinated, take them for short walks to experience traffic, meet new people and other dogs.

Always carry treats, and, when they meet something or someone new, feed them a few treats so that they make a positive association. Keep exposure time short though. Only up to 10 minutes at first to prevent them feeling overwhelmed. ‘Over-socialisation’ can actually have the opposite effect.

Gradually building up their exposure by a few extra minutes each day will help. For those unable to leave the house, sitting and watching, listening and sniffing the air from the front door (on a lead or being held), or at a window will provide your puppy with important information about the life outside the home.

Learning to be alone

You need to be very mindful of ensuring that puppies learn to cope well with being left alone after the lockdown finishes, and when life returns to normal. Providing different activities every day will help with a puppy’s sense of independence.

You could provide them with stuffed toys, chews, safe things to destroy like cardboard or paper and activity feeders. There are hundreds to buy online and there are many websites that show you how to make homemade toys (something children can join in doing). This way your puppy will learn that they can have fun on their own.

Teach your puppy to be alone by using barriers, pens or crates but be careful to only leave your puppy alone for a few seconds at first. Then increase the time slowly, otherwise they may become frightened and develop separation anxiety.

Separation can also be practised when your puppy is very sleepy. Put them into their bed, pen or crate and quietly leave the room but always listening to check that they are not showing any signs of distress.

New things

Introducing puppies to something new each day will help to build resilience when encountering something out of the ordinary and help develop natural inquisitiveness about novel sights, sounds and smells. Finding and sharing all sorts of unusual items (hats, scooters, bags, balls, suitcases, shopping trolleys, gym equipment etc) is a great way of doing this.

You can also turn everyday objects, such as chairs or tables, upside down to make them look different and put normal things in strange places. For example, put a dining room chair in the garden or bathroom. Let your puppy explore by themselves and avoid forcing them to get too close to something they are unsure about. Let them take their time and do things at their own pace.


Many dogs become fearful of strange sounds because they have not been exposed to them as puppies. Positive exposure to many different noises can help your puppy cope at times such as, for example, during the firework season. Being stuck at home provides an excellent opportunity to work on this! The Dogs Trust provides a great variety of sound effects and free booklets on how to work with puppies to lessen their sensitivity to sounds.

You can also use real noises at home by banging doors, dropping or banging spoons against pots and pans, shouting, vacuuming and introducing animal noises on TV etc. Always try to give a reward to your puppy when exposing them to a new noise in order for them to develop a positive association with it.


Dogs can often find people wearing strange clothing, or looking different from what they are used to, quite frightening. Help your puppy get used to the ‘different’ by introducing them to things like fake beards, glasses, big floppy coats, umbrellas, woolly hats, scarves, walking sticks, sunglasses, long skirts, helmets and hi-visibility clothing.

Travelling in the car

If you have a car then this is a good time to get your puppy used to travelling. The safest place for a dog to travel is either by being suitably restrained in the cabin with a seat belt or pet carrier, or in the boot of a hatchback with a dog guard. Give your puppy their meal in the boot/crate, sit next to them, providing treats from the back seat. Do all of this initially with the engine off. When your puppy grows comfortable with this, switch the engine on and do the same. Then go for very short trips – just around the block to begin with.

If there are two of you, one can sit in the back, dropping treats whilst the other drives. If there is only one of you give the pup a stuffed toy for the journey for comfort. Increase the frequency and length of trips very slowly, by no more than a few minutes at a time and until your puppy is completely at home with car travel.

Being handled

It is important for a puppy to learn to be handled by humans. They need to get used to being handled for veterinary examinations, bathing, towelling, grooming, nail clipping and general everyday husbandry.

Every day, for a couple of minutes, handle a different part of your puppy’s body whilst giving them treats. Keep it short and if they wriggle, let them go. Never pin them down, force them or hold them too tightly as this will make them fearful and may lead to fear aggression in the future.

Aside from stroking you could tickle them between their toes and in their pads, hold their claws gently, lift up their ears, lift up their lips and eyelids and lift up their tail.

For getting used to bathing and grooming, first gently brush and/or towel them. Put your puppy first into an empty bath and throw treats into the bath. Then turn the shower on and give them treats. You could also pick up your puppy and put them on a table and let them eat treats there too whilst gently introducing a brush or towel.


Children will often see puppies as new toys and can overwhelm your new arrival. Keep playtime with children very short, for no more than a couple of minutes. Don’t let the children just carry the pup around with them and avoid all rough and tumble play.

Puppies need a lot of sleep and must be allowed somewhere quiet where they are undisturbed for naps every couple of hours at the most. Make sure that children understand this and leave your puppy alone when asleep.

Encourage children to play appropriate games such as find it or gentle fetch and also encourage them to take part in basic training.

If you need further advice or would like to book your puppy’s initial vaccination with us, find and contact your local Goddard vet today. 

Spring Dangers & Threats to Your Pet

Spring is an exciting time of the year. The weather is improving and the prospect of enjoying time outdoors with your pet is becoming more of a reality after months indoors. 

It is important for all pet owners to know the potential dangers springtime can bring to their pets and the best ways to avoid harmful accidents. Read some of our helpful tips on keeping your furry friend away from danger. 

Outdoor Pet Dangers

There are many items that can be found in your garden during spring that can be highly toxic and in some cases deadly, to your pet – even in the smallest of quantities. 

Lily Plant

Any part of the lily plant can cause kidney failure in cats, so think twice about having them in your home if you are a cat owner.

Plant Bulbs

Many plant bulbs can be toxic to pets if chewed or eaten so be careful if planting them this Spring. We would much prefer to see some photos of your blooming garden than a necessary trip to one of our practices with your pet. 

Slug Pellets

Slug pellets containing metaldehyde are extremely toxic – ingestion of even small amounts will cause severe seizures.


While seemingly less likely than the other outdoor threats, Adders need to be considered by all pet owners whether in their gardens or out on walks. As the weather gets warmer, Adders wake up from their winter hibernation. Our overly inquisitive pets can encounter the UK’s only venomous native snake in many different scenarios and can attract a nasty bite if you aren’t too careful. 


One of the most problems you will come across as a pet owner is Ticks. As our pets begin to go outside more in the spring it is easy for them to pick up tics in woodland, vegetation or even your garden. As spring is the most common time of the year for ticks, they are worth watching out for. 

easter treats and foods harmful to pets

Food Dangers For Pets


Probably one of the most well-known dangers to pets from food. Chocolate is a common pet poison – the higher the cocoa content, the more danger it poses! As chocolate becomes plentiful around Easter be wary of your pets inquisitive nature to hunt out treats. Make sure it is stored away properly and children know it can harm pets. 

Raisins, currants and sultanas

Similar to chocolate, raisins, currants and sultanas can be found in a variety of Easter treats. These can cause kidney failure in dogs. While there is no defined dose that will prove deadly to your canine member of the family, it is important to ensure their contact with any dried fruit is significantly limited. 

Xylitol (E967)

The sweetener can be found in many confectionery items and causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels (and occasionally liver failure) in dogs.

Mouldy Food

If garden composting this Spring, keep pets away from mouldy food which can cause seizures and liver problems if ingested.

Other Dangers

Spring is not the only time of the year our pets are in danger. There are different threats to their health and safety throughout the year. Read our handy guide to keeping your pets safe at Christmas

It is also important to keep your pet’s health under consideration as the weather gets warmer into the summer months. Look at our tips for keeping your dog cool in the warmest part of the year. 

SPEED to help pets against toxic

There are many things around the house that are poisonous to our pet friends, use our Poisons Guide if you think your pet has eaten something poisonous that is not listed above, or get in touch immediately with your local Goddard vet.


Taking Your Pet Abroad

Pet Travel in 2021 Guide

Travelling with your pet can be a great experience and removes the need for leaving them with family or finding alternatives for the duration of your trip. Taking your pet abroad also means that you can enjoy their company as if you were at home to get the most out of your time. 

If you are wanting to take your pet with you there a few things you need to do beforehand. Our handy guide to getting your pet travel documents will give you everything you need to ensure your pet can pack their beach towel and join you abroad. 

What is happening with pet passports?

A pet passport was a legal document not too dissimilar to the one we use which was valid for travel prior to January 1st 2021. The document noted important information about you and your pet, providing evidence they were healthy and fit to travel. Since 1st January 2021, pet passports have been replaced by Animal Health Certificates and UK issued pet passports are no longer valid. However, if your pet has previously been issued with a Pet Passport then please retain it as it contains valuable information on previous rabies vaccination and microchip identification. 

Pet travel after Brexit

Travel to EU Countries and Northern Ireland:

Previously you could take your pet to and from the UK to EU countries providing certain criteria were met, such as holding a pet passport and being microchipped for easy identification. 

Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, have become a Part 2 listed third country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, effective from 1st January 2021 and your new Animal Health Certificate (in replacement of a pet passport) will allow your pet to re-enter the UK. 

While that may sound confusing the basic elements remain in place. It requires an animal travelling to hold an Animal Health Certificate, with a new certificate required for each time of travel. It must be obtained within 10 days of travelling and will allow one journey to the EU, onward journeys within the EU and return to the UK within a 4-month period. 

Before returning to the UK, any dogs in your party will need to have a worming tablet administered by a vet in the country you are travelling back from, given 1-5 days before re-entry to the UK. This is to prevent a type of tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) that can infect humans from being brought into this country by infected dogs, and it will need to be noted in their new Animal Health Certificate.  If you are taking your dog to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Finland, Norway, or Malta, they will need worm treatment 1-5 days before they leave the UK.

As with the previous passports, Animal Health Certificates can only be issued by Official Veterinarians (OVs). When booking your appointment make sure our team knows you need an Animal Health Certificate, and you will be allocated on OV to issue your documents

Travel to Non-EU countries:

As with most travel regulations, rules have changed since the beginning of the year due to Brexit. You will need to check the regulations on what country you would like to visit with your pet as some of the requirements will differ, and you may need to take more time to plan accordingly — in particular, unlisted non-EU countries such as Australia or New Zealand have a very strict disease control policy in place and your pet may have to stay in quarantine on arrival.   If travelling to countries outside the EU, an Export Health Certificate may be required.  Please see the UK Government Website for information on the EHC requirements and always check with your country of destination on their importing requirements.  

How do I get an Animal Health Certificate?

British Official Veterinarians can no longer issue pet passports or make an entry in an EU issued pet passport. To obtain a new Animal Health Certificate, in replacement of a pet passport, you will need to book an appointment with one of our vets. Check that the vet you will be seeing has OV (Official Veterinarian) status to legally provide an Animal Health Certificate and will be available on the day of your appointment. Most of our vets do have this qualification (which they must renew periodically) but please do make sure that our receptionists are aware that you will need certain documents that only they can sign.

Animal Health Certificate Criteria

Your pet will receive a full health check to ensure that they have no health concerns and are fit to be granted an Animal Health Certificate to travel. They must be over the age of 15-16 weeks (this varies between EU countries) at the time of travelling; this is to help prevent illegal movement of puppies and kittens and must not be travelling for commercial reasons such as buying or selling a pet. 

Hopefully, your pet is already microchipped (it is UK law to have your dog microchipped), but if not, they will need one placed in the scruff of their neck for identification purposed. The number will be recorded in their Animal Health Certificate, along with a written description of them. 

Your pet will then need to have a vaccination against Rabies. If the vaccination is given in the UK, it usually lasts 3 years before they require a booster. However, the vaccine can take a few weeks to become fully effective. As a result, your pet cannot travel to EU countries until 21 days after the Rabies vaccination, return to the UK until 21 days have passed after having the rabies vaccination when travelling from EU and listed countries. This means it is sensible to get everything done at least a month or more in advance of your planned trip.  If you are travelling further abroad, you may need to prepare months in advance of travel.

You also need to consider that your pet will be required to travel via an approved transport route and with an approved company. Additionally, you will have to travel with them – if this is not possible, you will need additional paperwork to allow another person to accompany them.

We strongly advise that you research the potential parasite and disease threats in the country you are travelling to, to ensure your pets are protected. For most countries, tick cover would be strongly recommended as they carry several significant diseases; in southern Europe, dogs should also have sandfly protection to reduce the risk of heartworm and Leishmaniasis.

Failure to meet regulations could result in your pet being quarantined on returning to the UK – which could potentially be months, so do check the website for the most up-to-date information.

Need more advice? Give us a ring and we will be able to point you in the right direction!

Top tips to keep pets safe this winter

If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for your pet – that’s the key message from the British Veterinary Association (BVA)* as it urges pet owners to take extra precautions to ensure dogs, cats and other small pets are kept safe from hidden and potentially fatal hazards as snow flurries and icy conditions are forecast in many parts of the country.

As with humans, pets can fall ill upon exposure to extremely cold temperatures for extended periods. To avoid this, vets advise that dogs are walked for shorter periods of time than usual, but more frequently if required, and to consider putting a coat on old dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm. Keep older cats inside during an extremely cold spell and ensure that even healthy young cats have easy access to shelter and warmth.


When walking your dog in ice and snow, do not let it off the lead and avoid walking in areas where ponds or lakes may have frozen over – animals often don’t understand the difference between solid ground and ice and can fall through. In this situation, vets urge owners to call the emergency services for professional help rather than going in after their pet. Although distressing, it is never worth risking your own life as well as your dog’s. It’s also important to wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.


Cats are especially at risk of poisoning from antifreeze, which can be fatal for them even in small amounts, especially if veterinary treatment is not sought immediately after ingestion. Store and use antifreeze products carefully, clean any spillages thoroughly, and contact your vet immediately if your cat develops symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, such as vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, seizures and difficulty breathing.

Small Pets

Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs that usually live outdoors are vulnerable to the cold and damp despite their furry coats. Owners with outdoor hutches and runs should make sure that their pets’ living space is well-protected from snow, frost and winter rain and kept dry. Give rabbits and guinea pigs extra bedding to keep warm and check their water bottle or bowl regularly, as these can freeze when the temperature drops.

Here are some other top tips to keep pets safe this winter:

  • Provide a warm, draught-free shelter: Make sure your pet’s bed is in a draught-free, warm spot off the floor in the house. For outdoor pets, the hutch or run should be in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow at least 10 cm off the ground.
  • Take precautions during and after walks: Dogs need to be exercised; however, during the colder months, try to walk your dog for shorter periods. Wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.
  • Avoid antifreeze poisoning: Wiping your pets’ paws can prevent them from ingesting toxins that they may have stood in whilst outside. Antifreeze in particular is highly toxic for cats even in small amounts, with almost one in six vets (17%) reporting treating cats for antifreeze poisoning over the 2018 winter season. Apart from use in car radiators, some cases that vets saw were thought to be from ingesting diluted antifreeze used in ornamental water features to protect the pumps.
  • Temperature control for small pets: Keep the temperature of rabbit and guinea pig homes between 10?C and 20?C for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 5?C to 20?C for guinea pigs, avoiding too many fluctuations in temperature.
  • Provide extra bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs: Make sure your rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding to keep warm during colder weather – line hutches with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin. If the weather becomes very severe, consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise – but never place them inside a garage in use, as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits and guinea pigs.

If you would like some more advice on how to keep your pet safe this winter, contact your local Goddard vet.

*The BVA is the largest membership community for the veterinary profession in the UK. They represent the views of over 18,000 vets and vet students on animal health and welfare, and veterinary policy issues to government, parliamentarians and key influencers in the UK and EU.