Posts Tagged ‘dog’

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

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!

Spaying Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Why is it important?

If you are not planning on breeding your bitch, there are a few reasons to consider spaying her. Entire bitches are at an increased risk of a number of disease conditions, some of which are potentially life-threatening. These diseases can be prevented, or at the very least, the risk reduced, by spaying (neutering). However, this is a surgical procedure, and obviously, it does involve some risks in and of itself, as well as having other consequences (never having any more puppies being the most obvious!). There are a lot of people and websites who will tell you that you MUST have your bitch spayed, or that you MUSTN’T. In this guide, however, we’ll look at all the pros and cons, so that you can make your own mind up.

What is spaying?

Spaying a bitch is a surgical procedure where the ovaries (and, usually, the uterus or womb) are surgically removed. It’s a fairly big op (although dogs seem to cope and recover really well), but it’s still an optional surgical procedure with a one in 1000 risk of significant complications. So, what are the advantages – why do people do it?

Advantage 1

Ending her cycles. Most bitches will come into season roughly every six months (although it may be longer for large and giant breeds). When they’re in season, or “in heat”, they pass a bloody discharge from their back end, which can be really messy. In addition, every male dog in the vicinity is likely to be queuing up at your back door trying to get to her! Some bitches also undergo quite dramatic personality changes, and they may suffer from “False Pregnancies” in the couple of months following the season. If they get “caught” by a dog, it’s likely to be a real pregnancy, and then you have to look after and find homes for all the puppies! Spaying completely removes her cycle (it cannot occur), and she cannot get pregnant. This means you’re not going to be part of the overpopulation problem, with dogs stacked up waiting for rehoming in shelters and rescue centres.

Advantage 2

Reducing the risk of reproductive tumours. About 7% of unspayed bitches will develop a mammary tumour (breast cancer) in their lifetime; if spayed before the second season, the risk drops by 92%; if spayed before her first, it’s down by 99.5%. Spaying an older bitch has progressively less effect. This protective effect extends to other reproductive tumours – a dog without a uterus or ovaries cannot, for example, develop uterine or ovarian cancer!

Advantage 3

Eliminate the risk of Pyometra. This is a serious and, if untreated, usually fatal infection of the uterus (womb). An astonishing 23% of unspayed bitches will develop a pyometra by 10 years old. The risk is essentially zero in spayed bitches.

Advantage 4

Lifespan – once you factor all of these risks together, you can expect a spayed bitch to live 26% longer than an entire one.

Disadvantage 1

Urinary Incontinence. Neutered bitches are reportedly 8 times more likely to become incontinent in later life (although this statistic has recently been questioned). This can usually be controlled easily with medication but is an annoyance. Estimates for the number of affected bitches range from 5-20%.

Disadvantage 2

Hormone changes – weight gain, coat alterations. After neutering, most dogs will be more prone to put on weight – but that doesn’t mean they become fat because of neutering. They become fat because their owners overfeed them! A few dogs also show a change to the quality of the coat – this is actually pretty rare, and usually really minor.

Disadvantage 3

Orthopaedic disease. There’s been a lot of research done into the effects of spaying on certain bone and joint disorders. There is good evidence to suggest that there is a slightly higher risk of bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in spayed bitches (unspayed bitches have a risk of 0.006%, spayed bitches 0.012%). In addition, spayed bitches have a higher risk of growth plate injuries, and seem to be at slightly higher risk of cruciate ligament injuries.

How is it done?

Unlike neutering a dog, which is a very simple operation (his reproductive organs are easily accessible!), spaying a bitch requires entering the abdomen. In most cases, this is done as an “open” surgery, where she will have a general anaesthetic, then the surgeon will open her abdomen and remove her ovaries and uterus. A more modern alternative is the laparoscopic bitch spay, where we use keyhole surgery just to remove her ovaries – this has a much faster recovery time and seems to provide all the advantages of the traditional surgery. Both are done under general anaesthetic, but we’d expect her to go home the same day in most cases.

In conclusion…

Spaying your dog is an important decision – there are hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs in the UK, so reproductive control is really important. It also genuinely does save lives; however, there are disadvantages too, so it’s important that you make up your own mind. If you would like to discuss this further with your vet, get in touch.

Fireworks and Your Pet

Fireworks season is fast approaching and although we may enjoy it as humans, it may be a little stressful for our furry friends. See below our advice on keeping your pet happy and safe during this time, or have a look at our top 10 tips on keeping your pet safe this firework season. 


  • Keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off.
  • Close all windows and doors and block off cat flaps to stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. Draw the curtains, and if the animals are used to the particular sounds of TV or radio, switch them on.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped so should they run away you are more likely to be reunited with them.


  • Walk your dog while fireworks are going off.
  • Leave or tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
  • Take your dog to a firework display. Even if your dog does not bark or whimper at fireworks it doesn’t mean they are happy.
  • Shout at your pet if they are frightened as this will only make them more distressed.


To further minimise distress, we suggest you install an Adaptil® diffuser in your home. The Adaptil® diffuser works like a plug-in air freshener, continuously releasing an odourless natural pheromone which helps to keep your pet feeling safe and calm. The diffuser contains a natural solution and there is no sedative effect. Xylkene® is an oral tablet which can also be used to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs. In severe cases we may need to prescribe a sedative. Please discuss this with one of our veterinary surgeons.


A Feliway® diffuser is the feline equivalent to the Adaptil® diffuser. Feliway® releases feline facial pheromone, mimicking the cat’s own pheromones, helping to create a state of calmness and well-being, allowing reactions to stressful situations to be better controlled. Xylkene® can also be used in cats to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs.


Rabbits and guinea pigs living outside should not be forgotten. They can also become very stressed from loud noises. Bring small animals indoors or into an outhouse to muffle the sound of the fireworks, helping them feel safe and calm.

If you are concerned or would like further advice, please speak to your local Goddard vet soon.

Are wild mushrooms harmful to dogs?

Ultimately, of course, it depends on the mushroom! However, with an increasingly warm and wet autumn climate, mushroom populations are soaring. In fact, in September 2018 the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) actually issued a warning about the problem. Read on to find out if wild mushrooms are harmful to dogs and what signs to watch out for. 

If you think your dog may have eaten an unknown wild mushroom, contact us IMMEDIATELY for advice.

What is a wild mushroom?

This sounds really easy —  but do you actually know what those bulbous masses are? Fungi are a kingdom of life all of their own, as different from plants as plants are from animals. Most fungi live in the environment and form networks of fine fibres growing through the soil. The mushrooms we see are their fruiting bodies, part of their reproductive cycle, which develop spores and then distribute them into the wind to spread where they will.

These fruiting bodies are high in protein and often very nutritious, so make a nice snack for any passing critter. Most fungi accept this as one of those things that, as a non-mobile fungus, one must put up with. However, there are a number that resent their unborn offspring being gobbled up by animals, and produce a range of really quite nasty poisons to deter peckish beasts.

What do wild mushrooms do to dogs?

The majority of the 4000 or so species of UK mushrooms are harmless – they might not taste nice, but they aren’t actually dangerous. However, there are a number that produce toxins called mushroom poisons (interestingly, although very similar poisons produced by moulds are called mycotoxins, the term is not usually used for those produced by the mushroom fruiting bodies themselves). For centuries, if not millennia, the properties of these fungi have been known by healers, botanists and shamens, and used for a range of uses.

In dogs, we tend to see three groups of clinical effects:

Early onset vomiting and/or diarrhoea

These are usually the least harmful types of mushroom – as a general rule of thumb, the earlier the symptoms appear, the less dangerous the mushroom is. This is because it triggers vomiting and purging that remove any unabsorbed toxins from the dog’s system rapidly. If the dog is violently vomiting within six hours of eating the mushroom(s), then although they need to be seen by one of our vets (dehydration and salt imbalances from profuse vomiting can be dangerous in itself), the prognosis is usually fairly good.

Neurological effects

The most famous example is, of course, Psilocybe semilanceata, the “Magic Mushroom”, but there are a number of different psychoactive fungi in the UK. Unfortunately, dogs do not cope well with the effects of the active ingredients and may develop abnormal behaviour (well, of course!), self-injury, abnormal heartbeats and even seizures. In some cases, death may occur due to trauma while under the influence of the hallucinogen (for example, jumping from windows or running into solid objects), while in severe poisonings, the seizures may result in hyperthermia which may cause death from internal overheating (although fortunately this is relatively rare).

Liver and/or kidney damage

Sadly, many of the most dangerous mushrooms do not give easy tell-tail signs of poisoning until much later – possibly too late. These damage may damage the liver or kidneys, typically resulting in symptoms such as lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination (in kidney failure) and jaundice (in liver failure). Treatment requires intensive supportive therapy and often hospitalisation and the prognosis is guarded.

How do you know if a mushroom is safe or not?

The bottom line is that it’s very hard to tell – many harmless varieties have a poisonous twin that is almost indistinguishable. As a result, we strongly advise you not to let your dog eat wild mushrooms – full stop!