VNAM……Life In The Day Of A Vet Nurse….And A Vet Nurses Naughty Dog!

Being a veterinary nurse is very rewarding and the wide range of tasks we can perform keep the job varied and interesting. We can perform a large variety of tasks, not just holding animals or cuddling puppies, although we never say no to puppy cuddles! We treat the patients as our own pets, and it’s nice to know that if your pet is poorly there is someone looking after them that has their best interests in mind.

I was recently on the other side of the consulting room table with my own dog, Homer, who decided to help himself to some raisins, which can cause serious problems for dogs. We had to give him a drug to make him vomit, to reduce the probability of the raisins causing an issue. We provide animals with lots of reassurance whilst they are being sick, and of course clean them up afterwards. We also get the not so glamorous job of checking that the raisins or other offending item have been brought up, which involves a pair of gloves and a strong stomach!

To reduce the potential damage to the kidneys, we often use intravenous fluids (drip) to support our patients and flush any toxins out of the body via the kidneys. To do this a patient needs an intravenous catheter, which is a needle inserted directly into the vein. Nurses regularly place these catheters, and strict hygiene must be adhered to, to prevent infectious agents such as bacteria from entering the bloodstream. The area must be carefully cleaned before the catheter is placed, and a clean bandage used to prevent the cat or dog from interfering with it. Animals’ mouths are full of bacteria, so the last thing we want is for them to lick the catheter site.



Most of our patients tolerate their catheters well, but a few naughty ones, like Homer, decide to remove it themselves! In this case, a new catheter is placed, and they get a buster collar, or ‘cone of shame’ for their troubles! Nurses monitor patients carefully during fluid administration, regularly checking their heart rate, temperature and breathing rate, as well as their overall demeanour. Subtle changes in these can indicate complications so need to be picked up straight away.

In addition to fluids and dependent on the type of toxin we will also administer activated charcoal. This is usually in the form of a thick black liquid, which must be taken by mouth. It acts to limit the absorption of such toxins from the intestines and hopefully reduce their potential for toxicity elsewhere in the body. Being half-Labrador, and very greedy, this was no problem for Homer, who willingly took the charcoal in a bowl of food! Sometimes the charcoal needs to be syringed into the patients mouth, which is a very messy process, as they often don’t like the taste!

Some of our inpatients will also require other types of medication during their stay, which is the responsibility of our veterinary nurses to administer. Tablets, liquids and injections are common administration methods, all of which we are able to give. Nurses generally have a few tricks to help convince their patients to swallow their medicine! We often hide medication in some tasty food, or sometimes need to put the tablet down the animals’ throat and encourage them to swallow.


With an animal that has eaten something potentially harmful, we often have to run blood tests to identify any problems that are not apparent on a physical exam. As nurses, we can take blood samples from your pet and either run them on our machines in-house, or send them out to an external laboratory dependent on what tests are required. To do this, we clip a small patch of fur from their neck, over the jugular vein, clean the area and then use a needle and syringe to collect the blood from the vein. Most of our patients tolerate this very well, and get a cuddle and fuss from one of the other nurses to distract them whilst the sample is taken. Nurses are trained to use the machines to perform a large variety of tests, then report the results to the vet in charge of the patient. 



Overall, Homer stayed in the practice for a few nights, where he was monitored throughout the night by the nurse who was on-call. Homers initial blood sample showed no ill effects from the raisins but sometimes this can take a couple of days to develop.  He was able to go home after 48 hours of fluids, where he was glad to be back doing what he loves, lying on his back on the sofa all day! He returned for a repeat blood sample a week later, he was very good for this and the bloods showed no long lasting effects from eating the raisins-good news for us both!



Having Homer in the hospital was of course worrying to me but remembering that we too are pet owners and experience the same concerns as our clients is a helpful experience; we really understand what you are going through and  can be confident when we say ‘we treat your pets exactly as we would treat our own.’

Please see our other ‘Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month’ posts here

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VNAM…How Our Nurse’s Can Help You; Puppy Clubs & Much More!

Owning your own puppy is a very rewarding experience but it takes a lot of time and patience to raise them into a young well-mannered dog. I have the pleasure of owning a beautiful five month old Samoyed named Iggy. Samoyed’s, commonly known as Sammy’s originated from Northwest Russia and Western Siberia and are a member of the Spitz group of canines. They were originally bred to help herd reindeer and pull sleds. They are a large breed of dog with a thick white double layered coat and upwards curling lips to show off that lovely ‘Sammie Smile’.

Sammy’s have a friendly and playful temperament with a lot of energy requiring lots of enrichment and exercise to keep them happy, they even stay playful with old age! Sammy’s are known to be excellent companions especially with children making them the perfect family pet.

My partner and I had been thinking about getting our own puppy for a couple of years and had researched the breed well before looking for breeders. We chose Iggy when he was 4 weeks old, he was the largest of his litter and the first born, he loves to eat! Being a veterinary nurse I advise clients on how to care for and train their new family members everyday so I expected my little man to fly through his training and follow the gold standard approach that I recommend- how wrong I was!

The fun (and stress!) began when we brought him home at eight weeks old. He settled into his new home straight away and began to show his very cheeky personality! Sammy’s as a breed are very intelligent however and with lots of time and hard work within the first week Iggy had learned his name, sit, paw, high five, lie down and was toilet trained. My partner couldn’t believe it! 


The key to training is positive reinforcement and lots and lots of praise! Your new puppy will no doubt be very excited to be in their new environment and will not understand straight away what is expected of them when it comes to toileting, playing, feeding and socialisation. This makes it up to us to help them understand by giving clear repetitive instructions and a juicy treat when they have done something right. Negative reinforcement, so shouting at or smacking your puppy when they have done something wrong is never a good way of training. Firstly, your puppy will not understand what they have done wrong (remember they learn by association, not the English language!) and secondly it could lead to nervousness and fear aggression.

So, here are my tips on training your new pup…

Toilet Training: Toilet training can sometimes feel like you are fighting a losing battle but persistence is the key. As puppies cannot hold their bladder for as long as an adult dog can, taking them outside to toilet every 2 hours is often helpful when first training. Sometimes it can help to make one area of the garden the toileting area, so they know when they go to this area you are expecting them to go to the toilet. Ensure you are on standby with the juicy treat and a high pitched ‘good boy/girl’ after they do their business in the desired place and then repeat, repeat, repeat! It’s not unusual for puppies to still have the odd accident in the house even if they are doing well with their training, but it’s important not to let minor setbacks disrupt your training plan. Some puppies, Iggy being one of them will urinate when they become excited. This is something they should grow out of as time goes on…hopefully for Iggy!

Mouthing/teething: When puppies play with their litter mates they mouth, nip and play bite. When you get your new puppy home they will begin to use this trait to play and socialise with you. As an 8 week old puppy this won’t hurt so much but when they become older they can do a lot of damage. With Iggy being five months old and growing so fast I have to keep reminding him that it hurts us when he mouths by making a high pitched ‘ow’. Teaching your puppy that mouthing, nipping or biting actually stops the play is the best way to kick this habit. Once your puppy begins to mouth simply get up and leave the room for a short period of time and then return and resume play and attention. Keep repeating this and they will learn they do not get attention if they bite. It’s important that everyone in the family and friends also stick to this rule otherwise all your hard work is being undone. Your puppy will also be teething and want to chew things, make sure they have plenty of toys to keep them entertained and their chewing under control.

Diet: It is important for your puppy to have a healthy diet to help them grow and maintain their ideal weight. Dry food benefits their teeth more than wet food, so a good brand dry food is what I would recommend. However, I now know what it’s like to have a fussy dog, Iggy will only eat certain brand wet trays. He doesn’t even like dry food in gravy! However, as long as you are feeding a complete puppy diet your puppy will be getting all the nutrients they need to become a healthy young dog. As your puppy gets older it’s important to gradually change them onto a young adult dog food. Every bag or tin of food should have a weight chart on the packaging so you can work out exactly how much your puppy needs to be fed daily. If you are unsure you can always pop your puppy in to be weighed and bring the packaging along for one of us nurses to work it out for you. Giving your dog human food can be bad for their health, it will cause them to gain weight and will not hold the correct nutrients for your dog. There are also a lot of human foods that are toxic to dogs such as chocolate, onions, garlic and grapes. It’s also important all members of the family stick to the rule of not giving human leftovers to your puppy, Iggy was given my boyfriend’s leftover pizza crusts and refused to eat his own food all day!

Socialisation: Socialising your puppy as early as possible allows them to become used to their surroundings, new people, new situations and other animals. I would recommend socialising them as soon as they are covered by their vaccinations. At this point they are eager to go outside and explore the world!  Allowing them to experience as many new things as possible, as young as possible is the best way to get your puppy used to the big wide world. Each puppy will have their own personality, some will be shy,  some excitable and others a mixture but with each experience they will learn how to behave appropriately in social and public situations. Iggy has learned how to behave with dogs through his own experiences; some dogs will play with him for hours whereas some realise he has far too much puppy energy for them. As Iggy is sometimes not aware of how big and boisterous he can be he gets the occasional telling off by the smaller and older dogs on the park, but again this is something he must learn therefore socialising at a young age is critical for them to learn these behaviours.

Vaccinations: It is important to vaccinate against common canine diseases which can be potentially life threatening.  Dogs are routinely vaccinated against Parvo virus, Distemper virus, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis . Puppies can be vaccinated from 6 weeks of age, they will then require a second vaccination 4 weeks later and are able to go out and explore the world one week after this. Your puppy will then need yearly booster vaccinations to keep their antibody levels up.

Microchipping: It is now a legal requirement to have your puppy microchipped and registered to you by 8 weeks of age. The microchip is a very small chip that’s placed in between your puppy’s shoulder blades so they can be identified and reunited with you if they become lost. It is placed under the skin by a quick injection and your puppy will forget all about it in seconds.

Preventative Parasite Control: Keeping up to date with flea and worm treatment will help keep those pesky parasites away from your puppy. We recommend puppies are wormed once a month until they are six months old and then every 3 months. Flea treatment will depend on the product being used, they are usually monthly pipettes however longer acting formulations are now available too!

Neutering: When your puppy is old enough (5-6 months old) neutering is recommended. There are many health benefits to neutering your dog. Please see our ‘What to expect when you bitch or dog is neutered’ advice to learn what each of these proecdures involves. Afterwards they will be recovered in our warm incubator or heated floors, have a fuss and cuddle with the nurses before going home the same day.  They will require strict rest and a ‘cone of shame’ for 5 days at which point they will come back for a post-op check with one of us. All being well they can then return to their normal activity. Iggy is yet to be castrated but his time is coming up!

As nurses we all have our own personal and professional experiences and we can use these to help guide you and your puppy through life. We are there to help right at the beginning of your journey and throughout. We also help in lots of other areas such as weight management, dental care and post operative care. We are always here and more than happy to offer our advice so don’t hesitate to book a nurse consultation if you are in need of a little help.

Please see our other Veterinary Nursing Awareness Month posts on our VNAM page

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May is Tick Awareness Month!!

Following on from last years ‘Big Tick Project’, MSD Animal Health are continuing to promote tick awareness.

Like many practices across the UK, Hollybank took part in the nationwide Tick study. Having seen that one in three dogs were affected by ticks and are therefore at risk of serious tick-borne disease we are keen to continue promoting awareness too.

Please see the full results at the The Big Tick Project.

As a result of all the data collected we have also been able to better understand the distribution and therefore geographical risk of ticks across the UK. Currently, Cheshire is a low-medium risk area but there are many areas with far higher risk patterns. Please see the UK Tick Threat Map if you wish to check another area.

Tick Awareness:

  • We encourage people to use regular preventative products against ticks. We are always happy to discuss these options over the phone or in a consultation.
  • It is sensible to regularly check over your pet for the presence of ticks, especially if you have a long haired or thick coated breed
  • If you think your pet has a tick or you are unsure then we are happy to check and help with removal. Please phone us to arrange an appointment-01606 880890


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