Puppy Pre-School Training

Puppy Preschool GraduationWelcoming a new puppy into the household is an exciting time for all members of the family. Puppies bring with them a lot of fun and enjoyment but owning a puppy can raise all sorts of questions, from the best way to toilet training your pup, to teaching them to sit on command. The path to a perfectly trained pooch can be a rocky road!

Here at Levin and Horowhenua vets we offer puppy pre-school for you, your puppy and your family members to come along to. Classes run for four weeks and are held from 6pm -7pm here at the clinic in Levin. Classes are held by Serena McGrannachan, a qualified veterinary nurse with a special interest in canine behaviour and Catherine Robinson, a mixed-animal veterinarian.

Over the four-week period a variety of topics are covered, including nutrition, toilet training and neutering. On week two we guide you through a top-to-toe examination of your puppy, giving you different health pointers including dental management, ear care and clipping nails. The final two weeks focus on training including the “stay” and “come” commands, and in the final week we build an obstacle course to incorporate everything the puppies have learnt over the previous weeks.

A large focus is spent on socialisation and time is given at the end of every class to allow the puppies off the lead to play and interact with the other puppies. This also gives us time to answer any of your questions and queries.

If you are interested in attending the next puppy preschool, commenting September or have any questions for Serena of Catherine then please pop into the clinic to fill in a registration form. Serena and Catherine look forward to meeting you and your puppies.

Grain Free Diets

Grain free dog food has increased in popularity over the last few years. It was previously reserved for dogs with certain health issues, but has recently been used more readily with the perception that certain grains are bad for dogs.

So, is grain free a better diet for dogs? Not necessarily. There may be more harm feeding grain free diets than benefits. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in America, recently released a warning that there is a potential link between feeding grain free diets and a life threatening heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy. The exact link is still unknown, but investigations are continuing.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that causes enlargement of the heart chambers, thinning of the heart muscle and reduction in ability for the heart to pump blood around the body. Certain breeds are more prone to dilated cardiomyopathy than others. These include Boxers, Dobermans, Great Danes and Cocker Spaniels. However, dogs that have been affected with dilated cardiomyopathy when fed grain free diets are of various breeds.

The more common food allergy in dogs is to proteins rather than grains. This is why dogs with skin issues are often trialled on limited protein, novel protein or hydrolysed protein diets. The exact requirement needs to be determined by a veterinarian, and may involve trialling different foods until we find the one that works best for your pet.

If you have any questions over suitability of your dog’s diet, or are concerned about your dog’s heart, please contact us at Levin and Horowhenua Veterinary Centre. Our nurses are able to help find a suitable diet for your pet, or we can arrange a consult with one of our vets to check your dog’s heart.

Does your pet have High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is not just an issue in people, it also affects pets. Similar to people, high blood pressure is more common in older animals. High blood pressure can be related to other diseases, or can occur in otherwise healthy animals. Regular blood pressure checks can detect issues in blood pressure sooner, and with treatment can reduce the chance of further complications.

When your pet has high blood pressure, it affects organs that have high blood supply. These include heart, eyes, kidneys, brain and spinal cord. If left untreated, high blood pressure can result in heart failure, blindness, strokes, and kidney failure. As the kidneys become more damaged, the body loses even more control over blood pressure, and the average survival rate decreases significantly.

Monitoring blood pressure in pets is relatively easy and non-invasive, very similar to the process with people. We place a cuff around their leg or tail, the cuff is attached to a machine which inflate and deflates the cuff and gives a reading of the blood pressure. This is repeated a few times, and an average taken. If this is high, we will want to repeat on another day. We may give you a calming medication to use before your pet arrives, to reduce the stress component and ensure the reading is true. If the blood pressure is consistently high, we may need to do further testing to check for other diseases, and start medication.

If your pet is over seven years of age, contact us to see how we can help your senior pet. We have discounts on selected senior products and services for the months of June and July, so pop on in and check it out.

Old Age is not a Disease

senior cat dogWith the lifespan of our companion animals being considerably shorter than our own, we inevitably see them develop from a puppy/kitten, through the juvenile stages, into adulthood and beyond into their senior years and eventually passing over the rainbow bridge. We commonly hear from owners of senior pets that they are slowing down with with increasing age.

However, we must remember, old age in itself is not a disease and many older animals can continue to lead a happy and healthy life. However, as an animal ages, the number of diseases or health problems can increase and require treatment to maintain quality of life. Many people have a plan in place to ensure their own senior care is managed in a comfortable way, so why not consider the same for your loyal companion.

As with people, early detection of diseases can result in more effective treatment or management of their condition. Detection of diseases in your pet can involve routine clinical health checks and diagnostics, as well as monitoring your pet at home for changes in behaviour, eating pattern or weight changes and seeking advice when their habits change.

Common disease processes we see in senior pets include hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) in cats, kidney disease, heart disease, dental disease, arthritis and cancer. Diagnosis of these diseases is the first step so we can treat your pet accordingly. Treatments may include medications, prescription diets, joint supplements, surgery, rehabilitation and physiotherapy, and even toe grips to help stop your senior dog slipping over on smooth flooring.

Make an appointment today to discuss your senior pets needs with one of the friendly veterinarians at the clinic.

Keeping your Pet Safe this Easter

easter dogsEaster is often a time for reflection, family gatherings, hot cross buns and Easter eggs. With many activities happening and festive food around, it is an important time to keep your pet safe. Do not share chocolate or hot cross buns with your pet. Instead, include your pet in activities rather than overindulging them with food.

Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine – both are dangerous to dogs, cats, horses and birds! Pets can’t break down theobromine and so it builds up in their system, occasionally with fatal outcomes. The symptoms of chocolate poisoning include restlessness, excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and urination, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and possibly death. These symptoms can happen as soon as 30 minutes after eating. If your pet has consumed chocolate, contact your vet immediately.

Hot cross buns contain sultanas or raisins which are poisonous for dogs. The mechanism is unknown but can lead to kidney failure in dogs. Some dogs only need to consume a small amount before showing toxic signs, while other dogs can eat large quantities without showing any obvious symptoms. The symptoms of sultana/raisin toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain, dehydration, reduced or no urine production, foul breath, mouth ulcers, seizures and possibly death. If you dog has consumed sultanas or raisins, contact your vet immediately.

Eater lilies, like all lilies, are one type of flow that is poisonous to cats and dogs. Even ingesting a small amount of pollen can cause severe kidney failure in cats. The symptoms of lily toxicity include vomiting, lethargy, hiding, excessive thirst, drooling, and foul breath. If your cat shows andy of these signs, contact your vet immediately.

Pet Insurance

Owning a pet can be very rewarding and has proven human health benefits. Having a dog around can lead to lower levels of stress for both adults and kids. Pets have been found to decrease the risk of asthma in children, have been linked to lower blood pressure, and researchers have also shown that dog owners are more active. It is therefore desirable to look after our furry companions to ensure they are happy and healthy also.

But pet care can be costly. Veterinary care does not have any government subsidy as we do for our human healthcare, so pet owners will be paying the true cost. As with human medicine, veterinary knowledge is constantly growing and we are able to do much more for our pets than we used to be able to do in the past.

WE need to factor their normal requirements into our budge (food, shelter, vaccinations, parasite control, toys…) and also to make provisions for the unexpected as well.

There are a few options of ways to achieve this, including putting savings aside regularly to use when required, or considering pet health insurance.

Having pet insurance can be very beneficial for those unexpected costs. You choose a level of cover that you are comfortable with, and premiums are calculated based on the age and breed of your pet. Getting your pet insured when they are young and healthy is recommended so that if they do develop a long-term condition, the policy was in place before the condition started. Having insurance may give you greater access to referral of specialist services.

There are several pet insurance companies operating in New Zealand that offer a variety of policies to suit your needs. As with any insurance policy, it is important to read the fine print to know what coverage you have selected and any limitations or exclusions. Policies do not need to be limited to just injury cover; some policies cover illness, day to day care, dental care and a contribution towards vaccinations. Your vet clinic can supply brochures for you to read and consider.

Treating Hip Displacement in Dogs

Bilateral_hip_dysplasiaHip dysplasia is the most commonly inherited orthopaedic disease in dogs. It causes pain and stiffness, and affects your dog’s quality of life. Dogs with a loose hip joint (hip laxity) are at higher risk of developing hip dysplasia. PennHIP is a technique of measuring hip laxity and can identify dogs that are susceptible to developing hip dysplasia.

The PennHIP technique was established at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1993, with the main objective of reducing the prevalence of hip dysplasia in dogs. It replaces traditional hip testing methods where the positioning required for the x-rays artificially tightens the hip joint; traditional hip testing methods had made little progress in reducing hip dysplasia so an alternative was developed.

PennHIP is the most accurate hip screening method and can be performed on pups as young as 16 weeks of age. Assessment of your dog’s hip health is important for breeders to help select breeding stock with tight hips, and reduce incidence of hip dysplasia in future generations. It is also important for pet dogs, as early intervention can help delay signs of hip dysplasia.

PennHIP consists of a series of three x-rays taken under sedation. It includes traditional hip assessment x-rays as well as a ‘distracted view’, which simulates the forces on the hips when the pet is standing. The x-rays are sent off for assessment, and a report received giving your pet a hip score, as well as the breed average, and the risk of developing osteoarthritis (hip dysplasia).

If you have any questions regarding hip dysplasia in your dog, treatment options or PennHIP testing, please contact Levin and Horowhenua Veterinary Centre. We have a veterinarian certified in the PennHIP technique that can help you and your dog.

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome

brachyRecently brachycephalic (short-faced) animals have become increasingly popular to own. While they look cute, a proportion of these animals (dogs, cats and rabbits) struggle with day-to-day life due to extreme breeding. Brachycephalic breeds have shortened face bones, which give them their flat-faced, child-like appearance, but this changes the relationship of the soft tissue and bone of the head. These changes affect the airway, and can have considerable animal welfare implications.

While some brachycephalic animals have good respiratory function, some will have Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. This is a group of abnormalities that can occur when animals are bred for a shortened face. It includes narrow nostrils, elongated soft palate (excessive soft tissue at the roof of the mouth restricting the airway) and a hypoplastic trachea (underdeveloped narrow windpipe). Brachycephalic animals can have one or more of these abnormalities, and if significant to an individual, it is equivalent to a human breathing through a straw all of the time.

Animals with brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome can show a wide range of symptoms from noisy breathing or snoring, to exercise intolerance, collapse due to inadequate oxygen, heat stress and even death. Although noisy breathing can be common with brachycephalic breeds, it is not normal for a healthy animal and should be assessed by your veterinarian to see if corrective surgery can improve the quality of life of your pet.

Thankfully the future of these breeds is optimistic as there is ongoing research to evaluate their ‘respiratory function’ with a view to enabling breeders to select parents who will improve the welfare of the breed as a whole.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the breathing of your pet, please contact us at Levin and Horowhenua Veterinary Centre, to arrange a time to have your pet assessed.

Think Twice Before Gifting an Animal

Pets are for lifeThe holidays are arriving and lots of gift-giving will be occurring. Quite often animals are given as gifts during this time of year. While this is not always a bad gift idea, do think twice before giving an animal to someone who is not expecting to take on the responsibility of a pet. Pet ownership should not be an impulse decision. Planning is an important step in bringing an animal home including deciding on the species, breed, and age of the animal. The recipient should have the chance to consent to pet ownership and be able to choose a pet that fits his or her lifestyle. For example, a border collie may not be the best gift for a sedentary person living in town with a small section. A puppy may be great for someone with time and patience for training, but an adult cat might be better for someone who works long hours. Pet ownership is a long-term commitment.
Animals are living longer than they have before in part because of the improved diets and medical care available. That being said, this care is not necessarily cheap. Providing a quality environment, attention, proper diet, veterinary care, and adequate exercise requires both a significant amount of money and time. Emergencies can occur at any time and people are often not financially prepared for them, especially if a pet has come as a surprise. Animals can make wonderful gifts if given appropriately. Make sure that if you plan to gift an animal to someone, that the receiver is able to take part in the decision making surrounding their new pet. Many animals are relinquished each year due to owners’ inability to properly care for them. If given properly, the pet you are gifting will instead enjoy a long and happy life in their new home.

Responsible Breeding


Deciding to open your heart and home up to a new puppy is an exciting time with many factors to consider. They will be part of your life for many years, and potentially growing up with your children, so getting a puppy that suits your lifestyle and maintaining good health over this time is important.

With a growing concern for animal welfare, we suggest you consider ethical issues when looking for a dog. If you do not have specific breed requirements, consider adoption of either a puppy or an adult dog; there are always some looking for a new home. If you decide to purchase through a breeder, we recommend selecting a New Zealand Kennel Club Accredited Breeder, or follow The New Zealand Veterinary Association recommendations as follows:

  • NEVER buy from a puppy farm. It only supports them and further puppies will be produced.
  • Visit the breeder to see the facilities and where the puppy is being raised.
  • Meet the puppy’s parents to assess their health and temperament; whether they have required any corrective surgery, or if they are related. Check how old the bitch was at mating (ideally between 1 and 6 years old), how many litters she has had (no more than 3), and if she has required a caesarean (no more than 2).
  • Support breeders who test for inherited disease, and use these results in selecting the mating.
  • Do not support breeders who produce puppies with exaggerated features.
  • In breeds that tend towards exaggerated features, choose a breeder who is actively selecting away from those features (such as flat face, short legs, excessive skin).
  • A puppy should be over 8 weeks of age when going to their new home, should have been socialised with people and other animals, have been on preventative parasite treatment (fleas and worms), had a vet check and had their first vaccination. The breeder should also provide ongoing support to the new owner over the transition period.