Pet Advice

Hints and tips to caring for your pet

animal behaviour and puppy training

An increasing number of products and training programs are available to help minimise or eliminate inappropriate behaviours in pets. Please feel free to consult with our staff should you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s behaviour.

Puppy Parties at Millburn Vets set the foundations for a happy future with your new family member. Ian is the proprietor of Alpha 1 Dog Training and has over 30 years full time experience of working with dogs. He is a member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers and has Listed Status with The Kennel Club.


We brush our own teeth twice a day yet we still go to the dentist every 6 months for a check up. Brushing your dog’s teeth is more difficult to do but it’s still really important to keep a regular check on the state of their mouth.

Gum disease is actually one of the most common problems that vets see.  The problems begin when plaque and tartar build up on your dog’s teeth.  Plaque harbours bacteria which can infect gum tissue and the roots of teeth, making the mouth sore, causing disease and tooth loss. The bacteria can also enter the blood stream and may cause damage to internal organs.

Why looking after your dog’s teeth is so important?

  • Liver, kidney and heart disease – dental infections may lead to these diseases if left untreated 
  • Shortened life expectancy – poor dental health can shorten the life of your pet
  • Unpleasant looking teeth – teeth can look nasty and harbour bacteria
  • Weight loss – bad teeth and infected gums can lead to a reduced appetite
  • Bad breath – a result of neglected teeth and gums

At Millburn we offer free dental checks with our nurses, so book a free nurse appointment today and keep a smile on their face! 


As pet owners, losing a pet is right up on the list of things you don’t ever want to think about happening. However, it's a sad fact that many dogs go missing every year and if your dog becomes lost whilst not wearing a collar or the disc falls off, there is no way of identifying and contacting you. 

Microchips offer a more permanent way of making sure your dog is always identifiable and that you can always be contacted in the event of them being found.  

The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is simply inserted under the skin by injection. This microchip holds a number unique to your dog, which can then be read by a universal scanner. Dog rescue centres, dog wardens and vets scan every stray or unidentified dog brought into their possession.

Your details are kept on a central computer; resulting in a quick and happy reunion should your dog become lost. You just need to make sure that if you ever change your telephone number or move house that you let the microchip company know to update their details.


Cats and dogs are more predictable, sociable, and often healthier pets if they have been neutered.

We use the latest and safest anaesthetics, with electronic monitoring in theatre. Young dogs, cats and rabbits recover very quickly after the anaesthetic and surgery. We use hidden, absorbable skin sutures where possible. In most cases you will not see the stitches, and suture removal is not required.

Consider implanting an identichip at the time of the operation (at a discounted price, saving £'s!). This may help return your pet if he/she is lost or stolen.

Why Neuter Cats?

Entire cats (that is those who have not been neutered) have more frequent cat bite abscesses, and are at greater risk of contracting FeLV/FIV (cat viruses with similarities to the HIV/AIDS condition in humans). Entire tomcats produce very smelly urine and may mark their teat what age can it be donerritory (including your house) with it. Female cats can produce several litters of kittens each year. In pet cats it really makes so much sense to neuter, it's hard to have a reason not to. Visit the Feline Advisory Bureau for a sound independent run down on the reasons.

Why Neuter Dogs?

In dogs, un-neutered animals have a greater risk of some cancers and other diseases, risk unplanned pregnancy, can be more aggressive, and are more likely to 'roam' or run off. It is possible to have an un-neutered dog in good health, but on balance neutering early in life has more benefits than not. Visit the Dogs Trust for an independant point of view. The Dogs Trust (a well respected animal charity, formerly NCDL) also operate a subsidised neutering scheme. We are delighted to support this charitable scheme, and will carry out the operations for eligible owners.

At What Age Can It Be Done?

Our usual practice is to neuter cats and dogs from around 5 months old (in some cases it can be done before this age). Male and female cats, and male dogs can be neutered at any time after this age.

In bitches, we advise neutering either before any signs of a season (about five months old) OR three months after the first season. Early neutering reduces the risk of mammary cancers (the greatest benefit is seen if neutered before the first season, but neutering between the first and second season still gives a substantial reduction in mammary cancers).

Occasionally bitches may develop a leaky bladder some time after being neutered. This is thought to be due to the loss of female hormones combined with an anatomical predisposition (those who have a particularly short and wide urethra and a bladder partly in the pelvic canal). In most cases this can be easily controlled with medicines. This is a small potential downside in a small number of cases, and is far from life threatening. Neutering prevents certain cancers which are very serious.

What About The Rabbits?

Rabbits are neutered from 4 months old, for much the same reasons as dogs and cats. As many as 60-80% of entire female rabbits over four years old will have uterine cancer. This is a very aggressive, fatal disease. Neutering is the only sensible precaution we can take to prevent it.

kitten vaccinations

We give the first injection from 9 weeks old and the second three to four weeks later. (In some cases the first injection can be given from 8 weeks old depending on the vaccine used).

We recommend vaccinating your cat against feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), and cat flu, & feline enteritis. FeLV is a fatal virus spread by close contact in cats. If your cat never goes out and will never go out in the future, you may vaccinate for flu and enteritis only (this is the requirements for going into a cattery).

Onset of immunity is two to four weeks after the second injection. Consider keeping your kitten indoors until he/she has been neutered at around 5-6 months old.

Annual boosters are recommended.

Boosters vaccinations

Booster vaccinations are recommended for dogs, cats and rabbits. Some vaccines protect for up to three years - where possible we use them, others must be given annually.

There have been some concerns about 'over-vaccinating' animals causing certain illnesses. Any potential risk is very small indeed, and the great proven benefit of regular vaccination outweighs any small theoretical risk.

If it has been more than one year since your pet had a booster vaccination, then you should consider restarting with an initial two injection course as for puppies & kittens. It is not possible to give a definite time when you must restart. This has to be done on an individual case by case basis. Other than the requirements of boarding kennels/catteries, it is your choice how frequently you vaccinate your pets.

time to say goodbye

As pet owners, we endeavour to make sure that our faithful companions stay fit and healthy, enabling them to live to an old age. Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as us and at some point, we will have to prepare to let them go. Sadly, few of our pets pass peacefully away in their sleep. Therefore, we all wish to do the right thing at the right time, fulfilling our responsibility and commitment in their final days. We hope these words will help you and your family in a time of conflicting emotions.

Nobody knows their pet better than you and your closest family and friends, so let them help and share in making a reasoned judgement on your pet’s quality of life.
Indications that things may not be well may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • A reluctance to play and move around as normal
  • Restlessness or becoming withdrawn from you

When the time is right to put your pet to sleep, you may see evidence of a combination of all the above indicators and your pet may seem distressed, uncomfortable or disorientated within your home.
Is there nothing more I can do?

As your vet, we will discuss all treatment options available for your pet to relieve their symptoms, but there will come a time when all forms of treatment have been exhausted, we have discovered the disease is incurable, or you feel your pet is suffering too much. You and your family may wish to talk with your Veterinary Surgeon to help you all come to this final decision; in this case, we will arrange an appointment for you.
When and where can we say goodbye?

We hope this section will help you and your family understand your pet’s end-of-life journey. This is known as ‘euthanasia’ but often referred to as ‘putting to sleep’. After discussing with your family and your vet, and having decided that the time has come, you can contact your surgery and make an appointment. We will always try to make this appointment at a time that is convenient for you – usually at a quieter time of the day.
It is also possible to arrange this appointment to be performed in the comfort of your own home. If this is an option you would like, we will do our best to arrange a home visit. In these cases, a vet and a nurse will visit your home. When they have put your pet to sleep, they will either take the body back to the surgery for cremation or leave them with you to bury at home. Additional charges will apply for this service and certain times of day may be restricted.
Will I be able to stay with my pet?

Being present when your pet is put to sleep will be both emotional and distressing, but the majority of owners feel that they give comfort to their pet during their last moments, and can make their final goodbyes. But this is not comfortable for everyone; we understand if you do not want to stay in the room with your pet but make your goodbyes afterwards. We will always make time for you and your family to do this.
What will happen?

Initially, your vet or another member of our team will ask you to sign a consent form to give us permission to put your pet to sleep. You may have already discussed with your vet what you then wish to do with your pet’s body, but we will confirm this on the consent form.
Many owners are surprised by how peaceful euthanasia can be. Euthanasia involves injecting an overdose of anaesthetic into the vein of your pet’s front leg. Some of our vets would have previously inserted a catheter into the vein or sedated your pet if they are particularly nervous or uncomfortable.
After the anaesthetic has been injected, your pet’s heart will stop beating and they will rapidly lose consciousness and stop breathing. Your vet will check that their heart has stopped beating and confirm that they have passed away. On occasion, the pet’s muscles and limbs may tremble and they may gasp a few times, these are reflex actions only – not signs of life – but may be upsetting. If they occur, they are unavoidable. Your pet’s eyes will remain open and it is normal for them to empty their bowel or bladder as the body shuts down.


Cats and dogs should have 12 hours without food before having a general anaesthetic (also known as 'GA') or sedation in most cases. Our usual plan is to take food away at approximately 8:00pm the evening before, but leave water down until first thing on the morning of the procedure.

Other species (rabbits, other small mammals) should not be fasted.

puppy vaccinations

There are lots of nasty diseases out there that dogs can catch and vaccinations are the best way to protect your dog from some of the worst ones. 

For puppies (who can be vaccinated from 7 weeks old) or dogs who haven’t been vaccinated in the last year, they will need a primary vaccination course to get their protection started. This primary course consists of two injections given two weeks apart.

After the primary vaccination course, your dog will then need to be vaccinated every year to keep up the protection against the diseases. We call this a booster vaccination as it boosts your dog’s immunity. It is not necessary to vaccinate against every disease every year, but all dogs require a vaccination against at least some diseases every year. Your vet will choose a protocol in line with your pet's health, local disease prevalence, and the most up to date professional guidelines.

At Millburn Vets your dog will receive a full health-assessment at every vaccination appointment. Our friendly vets carry out a thorough head to paw assessment and answer any questions you may have. 
The diseases we can protect dogs against with vaccinations are:

  • Canine Parvovirus normally known as Parvo
  • Distemper
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Kennel Cough

Distemper is passed from dog to dog. The symptoms of Distemper are a runny nose and eyes with coughing and sickness, unusual tiredness and nervous signs including twitching or even fits. A potentially fatal disease, always seek immediate veterinary attention.

Infectious canine hepatitis is caught from another infected dog and it affects the liver. A dog with infectious canine hepatitis will have a very high temperature, pale gums, sickness, diarrhoea and seem generally poorly. A potentially fatal disease, always seek immediate veterinary attention. 

Leptospirosis can also be spread to humans so vaccinations are important here to protect your dog as well as your family who could catch the disease from your dog should they become infected. There are different types of Leptospirosis which affect different organs of the body. Signs of Leptospirosis include a high temperature, severe thirst, tiredness, sickness, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. A potentially fatal disease, always seek immediate veterinary attention.

Parvo is highly contagious and causes either severe sickness and diarrhoea or problems with breathing and the heart. Unfortunately, most dogs who get Parvo don’t survive it even with veterinary attention.  

We vaccinate against Kennel Cough separately to the other diseases which are all covered in the same injection. Kennel Cough causes a persistent hacking cough that lasts for several weeks. Although, as the name suggests, this cough is often picked up when dogs stay in boarding kennels, dogs are just as likely to catch it whenever they are close to other dogs, so at training classes, playing at the park, at shows etc. Most good boarding kennels won’t accept your dog unless they have been vaccinated beforehand.   

Dogs only need to be vaccinated against rabies if they are going to be taken abroad as this disease isn’t currently seen in the UK. If you are thinking of taking your dog abroad, read our article on pet passports.

Lungworm Did you know, that the lungworm parasite is carried by slugs and snails? When dogs rummage through the undergrowth, drink from puddles, eat grass or generally sniff around outside they can end up eating small slugs or snails either accidentally or on purpose. Once a dog is infected with lungworm they can suffer from serious health problems which can be fatal if left untreated. 

Lungworm infections can cause a number of different signs including:

  • Breathing problems
  • Poor blood clotting
  • General signs of being unwell like weight loss, sickness and a poor appetite
  • Depression and tiredness

If you are worried that your dog might pick up a lungworm infection or that they have already picked up an infection, our vets can prescribe a regular spot-on treatment which is applied to the back of your dog’s neck. By applying this spot-on on a monthly basis, you can prevent your dog from getting an established lungworm infection.