Current BVA and RCVS guidelines and rules for veterinary care for dogs vaccinations, emergency treatments, appointments, medication, wormers, anti-flea treatments, how to take the dog to the vets during COVID19 / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / (C) Natalia Ashton

The Do’s & Don’t of veterinary care for your dog during COVID19 pandemic. All your questions answered.

On 27 March Niall Connell, president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the governing body for the veterinary profession in the UK, addresses his colleagues in a video message providing further guidelines for managing their practices and work during coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

His message was clear. “The public safety must override the animal welfare”, Connell said with a heavy heart. This is the bitter truth of the current situation we are all in. This also means that the wellbeing and safety of our dogs, more than ever, is in our hands and our sole responsibility. Even though the veterinary practices can remain open, they have every right not to see anyone for routine enquiries, treatments or sale of a medication that is not essential for life.

To make it clear and simple to understand (and take the necessary pressure off the vets’ shoulders) I put together a list of questions covering all the Do’s and Don’t’s. It is based on the most recent guidelines and rules issued by the government, RCVS and BVA (British Veterinary Associations).

Will my veterinary practice be open?

The veterinary practices can remain open. This decision can be made by each individual business, so you will need to call and check. Under the government guidelines, the practice may reduce their working hours, limit the staff members available at the time, the number of clients they see and the ways they see them.

Can a vet see my dog?

The vets can see a limited number of patients to prevent the spread of coronavirus and reduce the risk of COVID19 infection among themselves, their families and clients. They may agree to travel to your home, but only if they deem this essential and risk-free. Many vets can see you and your dog via a video call.

You must always phone the practice before travelling to make further arrangements.

Can I get wormers, anti-flea treatments or vaccinations for my dog?

All these fall under “routine treatments” that are not associated with disease or deterioration, and according to the government guidelines “should not be carried out until further notice”.

If your dog has been seen by a vet in the last 6-12 months, has been given all clear, is in good health and has been on these medications without any side-effects, your vet may agree to either post them to you or issue a prescription that you can use to purchase these treatments online. Any online purchases are done at your own risk, so please double-check the name, dose, expiry date before you administer anything.

Can I use an alternative medication or something “natural” whilst I can’t have my usual ones?

No. Going down this route means that you will be playing a Russian roulette by giving your dog something that may cause a reaction or put his life at risk. Many natural treatments also contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. None of them are tested to be effective. If anything happens to your dog as a result, you may not be able to take him to the vets immediately.

Are there any exceptions for vaccinations and boosters?

At the moment, any annual booster vaccinations are not urgent or essential. However, according to the BVA and RCVA guidelines “there may be scenarios where, in professional judgement, vaccines are being given to reduce a real and imminent risk of disease: this includes in the face of an animal disease outbreak, or in a scenario where a part of a vaccine course has been given and the animal may be exposed to the disease. 

In this case, veterinary judgement is paramount and the risk of leaving an incomplete course must be weighed against the ability to see the animal whilst maximising social distancing.

NB if the Government’s social distancing restrictions last longer than the current review date of 13 April, this guidance may change further.”

This means that your vet may agree to complete a vaccination protocol for your puppy if your puppy has already received the first part of his vaccine, or at high risk of disease due to being unvaccinated. However, do not expect or demand your vet to carry out this procedure as a mandatory treatment.

Bear in mind that if your adult dog has had his regular boosters, he is likely to have enough antibodies to remain safe against the core diseases for at least a few months after his booster is due. The only exception is leptospirosis, so if you live in an area known to be at risk for lepto, keep your dog at home.

Can I still get my repeat prescription for certain drugs?

Some practices will still dispense repeat prescriptions that are essential for the animal’s life. In this case, you will need to contact them in advance to arrange a safe handout or collection.

Although this is not ideal, your veterinary surgeon may agree to issue repeat prescription for any medicine categorised as POM-VPS, NFA-VPS, or AVM-GSL or advise on a suitable alternative. You will need to be registered with the practice, give your full consent, check and administer medication at your own risk, and contact to vet in any emergency situation associated with the treatment. Any vet holds the right to refuse to issue a repeat prescription or provide their client with certain drugs via remote means.

What treatments are classified as essential?

Any treatment that “essential to maintaining the future food supply chain” (which applies to farm animals, not dogs) can be carried out.

For dogs, the veterinary surgeon will only see them “in emergencies or where, in the judgement of the veterinary surgeon, urgent assessment and/or treatment is needed in order to reduce the risk patient deterioration to the point where it may become an emergency in the near future (i.e. within the three-week time frame currently laid out y the government for these measures)”.

What treatments are classified as an emergency?

These include any cases that would normally be seen out of hours or fitted in on the same day regardless of the scheduled appointments (poisoning, allergic reaction, injury, bleeding, loss of coordination, etc). According to BVA, such cases are “immediate threat to life; significant impact on health/welfare and high risk of deterioration of left unmanaged”

Any dog who is in stable condition but can deteriorate due to poor health or trauma, will also be seen.

What if my dog needs to be PTS?

In the current situation, this can be very heartbreaking because you will not be able to accompany your dog to the veterinary practice. Should the vet agree or must carry out euthanasia, he will be the only person who will stay with your dog.

What if my dog becomes unwell while I am self-isolating due to COVID19 infection or because I have symptoms of coronavirus?

Your dog will only be seen if his condition is classified as an emergency. If not, your vet is allowed to postpone the treatment until you either recover or come out of quarantine. The assessment of your dog can be done via video call.

If the dog is in need of an urgent care, the vet can weigh any possibilities of putting his own health, or health of anyone he’s in contact with, at risk before arranging an appointment. Should he decide to go ahead, you will need to find a healthy asymptomatic person to take your dog to the surgery followed by necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.

What steps do I need to follow if I have to take my dog to the veterinary practice?

Not every veterinary practice will provide face-to-face appointments. Most have now issued a letter either via their official website, social media or post to inform their clients. Do your best to find this information before calling.

If you need an appointment or have a question – email for anything that is not urgent or call for any emergencies.

Most vets now ask that the dog is brought to the practice by one person (meaning your other half must stay at home and you need to ensure that your dog travels safely).

Call the practice from the car park upon arrival. Check if they have their own lead and collar, or slip lead. Remove your own lead if they ask you to do so.

Practise social distancing to ensure that you and the member of staff remain two meters apart.

Pay by card, over the phone or via bank transfer. Do not rely on cash or cheques.

Agree on further arrangements of whether you can wait for your dog in the car park or need to return to the practice in a few hours.

When you bring your dog home: wash your hands, wash your dog thoroughly whenever possible, follow with a blow dry, disinfect your car, dog’s collar/lead and bedding.

What else can I do to protect my dog?

To keep everyone’s safe and sane, only take your dog out if it is absolutely essential. Most dogs, including cocker spaniels, can be content at home as long as they have an access to the garden.

If you do need to take your dog out, always wash his paws after each walk, never let him off the lead to avoid any situations when your spaniel can get attacked, run off, injure himself or potentially find and eat something toxic.

Do not take your dog to your relatives as this can increase the risk of viral spread (either via air or surfaces or your dog’s coat) and can make you ill and unable to care for your dog.

Stay at home! Remember that no dog ever died if he hasn’t had walks for a few weeks. Some may get bored, but it’s better to have a bored and healthy pooch than risk his and yours lives.


Image source: athree23 from Pixabay

Christmas food as a risk of acute pancreatitis in dogs and cocker spaniels / symptoms of pancreatitis / dog blog / pet blog / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / Natalia Ashton (C) English cocker spaniel puppy tips, advice, training, handstripping, grooming, diet, nutrition

Pancreatitis | The “Christmas illness” you need to know about

Do you know that the dogs are more likely to suffer from acute pancreatitis during the festive season than any other time? Especially if they are cocker spaniels, one of the breeds genetically predisposed to the disease. The risk is even higher in dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Cushing’s or diabetes, taking certain prescription drugs and those suffering from obesity and excess weight.

Christmas is impossible without special dinners and treats, most of which are very rich and not particularly dog-friendly and can lead to pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a small organ that sits in the abdominal cavity. The main function of the pancreas is to produce insulin and control blood sugar. Dog pancreas also produce special digestive enzymes.

Acute pancreatitis or sudden inflammation of the pancreas can happen if a dog eats large quantities of fatty and greasy foods in a short period of time. These titbits can be a part of the Christmas dinner or even table scraps that dogs can find in a bin. The excessive intake of nutrients overstimulates the pancreas and leads to excessive enzyme production. The reaction causes severe inflammation, bleeding of the tissue and organic damage. Other parts of the body including kidneys, lungs and heart can suffer next.

The symptoms appear suddenly. The acute form of the pancreatitis can be fatal.

Even though I may sound like the one who kills the festive spirit of Christmas, I need you to remember the simple rule:

Regardless of the festivities your spaniel’s daily diet must remain unchanged, any form of treats – limited to a bare minimum, and any parts of the holiday meal – avoided completely.

The symptoms of pancreatitis can appear very suddenly and include…

… loss of appetite;

… diarrhoea;

… vomiting;

… hunched posture or “praying” position;

… dehydration;

… swollen and painful tummy;

… lethargy;


If your dog develops any of these, take him to the vets immediately.


Photo credit: image by 奕茗 王 from Pixabay

Can my dog eat vegan diet? Vegetarian and vegan diets benefits, pros and cons, dog nutrition advice / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / book / English cocker spaniel grooming, puppy tips, advice, training (C) Natalia Ashton #worldveganday

Is there such a thing as a healthy vegan diet for dogs?

One of the very first books about dogs I’ve read was published in England. So it was rather modern and free-thinking in comparison to many other tomes I had. Besides the usual guides on breeds and grooming, this book (unfortunately I can no longer remember its title) had a chapter about vegetarianism for dog in case some people decide to feed their dog according to their ethics. The advice was very sensible, as far as I remember, and pretty do-able for any true vegetarian. The book clearly showed that a dog can definitely live on a meat-free diet and remain well as long as his food contained dairy, eggs and fish (think ovo-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian or pescatarian diet). Some resent studies also suggest that, just like in people, complete balanced vegetarian diets are associated with several health benefits in dogs (vitality, reduced risk of arthritis, cancer and diabetes, to name a few).

Admittedly, years later I’ve become a vegetarian myself. It was soon after we got Oscar and somehow I realised that I am no longer interested in eating any form of meat. So I went down the lacto-ovo route as the most nutritionally-sensible (and face it – tasty!) choice. The rest of my family, Oscar included, continued enjoying poultry and occasional lamb though. Everyone was happy. Should Oscar ever gone off meat and wanted to eat a diet of eggs and fish I would, of course, let him. But he was the cocker spaniel and his diet was true to what any cocker spaniel should have eaten.

However, about three years ago I could not help but notice a new “breed” of canine food appearing on the market. Yes, the vegan one. Which naturally lead to the obvious question….

Can our dogs really be vegan?

In theory, yes. But only if we base it on the fact that the balanced diet is nothing more but a combination of nutrients including all essential amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals – and not ingredients as such. And  theoretically these nutrient blocks can come from any source otherwise many dog food companies would not use wheat gluten or soy protein in their formulas. It’s a bit like building a wall and filling the gaps with all kinds of bricks and stones as long as they fit in.

In reality, putting your dog on a vegan diet can come with quite a few issues…

Lets begin with the obvious. Cockers were bred and raised on meat-based diets. Not soy or beans. It has nothing to do with dogs being carnivores. They are not. Dogs really are omnivores and thus can eat a varied diet of, well, everything and anything including meat, plants and grains. But it didn’t make them choose veganism, no. The good old Obo and his relatives ate meat. So our lovely cockers would want some in their diet, too. Simple.

Another factor worth thinking about is the way most dog diet trends transition from the human ones. We had the Atkins and Keto – and now these are pushed into the dogs. People went carb-free – and so their dogs had to do the same. When dog owners decided to go raw, the whole bunch of companies produced another range of foods. Why? Because trends sell like hotcakes! The problem with every trend, though, is that any person can stop following it at any point (and trust me, as a nutritionist, I have never seeing anyone who would be able to live on vegan, Atkins, carb-free or raw diet for their entire life without consequences or simply giving it up at some point) yet most dogs will have no choice but to eat the same food for days, weeks, months and years, which is likely to increase the risk of many health problems.

Also bear in mind that vegan food for dogs must be balanced with an impeccable precision otherwise they are likely to lack certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals. This can theoretically be achieved through additional supplements, but under- or over supplementing a dog’s diet or using incorrect or low quality supplements can put a strain on the dog’s health – or worse, lead to toxicity.

If you decide to cook the meals at home to avoid genetically-modified ingredients (think soy, corn, maize etc) or the “toxic chemicals” that may lurk in the dog food, you are very likely to fail. For a while you dog may enjoy the meals – most dogs would happily eat a bowl of porridge or rice with carrots and a bunch of greens. But the problem will begin as soon as their natural “amino acid pool” will “dry out” and the body will start missing out on the “building blocks” that are essentials for creating new cells and maintain the immune system.

Even most complete vegan dog foods are likely to be based on a combination of pulses (beans, lentils, peas etc.) or vegan proteins (soy, corn or wheat gluten), which have been linked to many cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening disease associated with deficit of specific amino acids such an taurine and l-carnitine that can only be obtained through animal proteins. Additionally, the dog can also become deficient in vitamins B12 and D, which will have a negative effect on several body systems.

In other words, if you choose to try putting your dog on a vegan diet to see what happens – don’t be surprised if your expectations are not the ones you’ve pictured in your head.

My advice? Don’t risk it when it comes to your dog.

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle because it can make a positive change to the environment, planet, animals or your own well-being is one thing. Feeding a dog with a vegan diet is something completely different and, lets be honest, against nature.

Dogs don’t have as long as we do, so let them live these years with pride and joy of being an animal.

Make the changes by changing your own habits. Eat less meat, skip it completely or be a vegetarian who has a couple of completely vegan days a week. Don’t waste food. Choose household product and cosmetics made without animal-based ingredients. Go organic. Buy dog food that contains moderate quantities of protein (an adult dog requires 18-28% of protein in dry food, that’s all!), not meat-only or high-protein mixes. Do something. Anything!

If everyone chips in, the little steps will compensate for the fact that dogs do need to eat their meat- (or more precise, animal protein) containing diets. Because we can choose how to live our lives including accepting responsibility for making conscious and health-appropriate choices for our pooches. They may like an occasional carrot but can’t jump in a car and go grocery shopping should their parent decide to replace a tasty chicken dinner with a less-than-palatable kibble made of chickpeas and soy.

As we celebrate the World Vegan Day I will leave you here to marinate the medley of thoughts… Should you decide to learn more about appropriate nutrition for your cocker spaniel, benefits and pitfalls of certain diets or how to choose the best food, you will find the answers in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel.


Photo source: photo by Sergiy Kabachenko via

why dogs do not need to eat cheese / cheese can be toxic to dogs / bad and good cheese for dogs / puppy tips and advice / english cocker spaniel blog / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel (C)

Let’s talk about cheese

Cheese is like ice-cream… It’s a delicious sin, so scrumptious and tempting that some people would rather say they don’t like it than confess their love…

A lot of people share both with their dogs. Ice-cream is given as a sweet express ticket to cocker’s heart. It works, it’s definitely not brilliant for dogs health, but like any treat, is an occasional affair.

Cheese, on the other hand, is different. Even books advise on using cheese as a high value reward making it a daily necessity for any successful training.

As a self-confessed bore (and cocker mum) I disagree with such a statement.

Cheese, after all, is not as dog friendly as it’s portrayed. Personally, I never give it to my boys (with an exception for home-made tvorog (a Russian version of German quark) that suits young puppies)

Let’s be fair, I have my reasons…

Cheese is dairy & adult dogs would find it hard to digest it due to lower levels of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose.

Cheese is high in salt, which can cause problems because you can easily overdo the recommended amount.

Cheese is very high in fat, which can increase risk of pancreatitis and unwanted kilos. Cockers are prone to both – why play Russian roulette with luck?

Cheese, the mouldy & gooey types, are extremely toxic to dogs & eating them can be fatal.

Cheese is an extremely concentrated source of calories, so what seems like a tiny piece to you is likely to cover your dog’s daily calorie needs (I’m exaggerating but you get the idea)

Cheese made with cows milk, unless it’s organic, can contain pesticides, antibiotic residue & even traces of puss.

Cheese, especially the strong types like cheddar, contains an amino-acid tyramine that can reach dangerously high levels (and lead to critically elevated blood pressure) when consumed with food by dogs taking MAOIs, a type of antidepressants (sold as L-Deprenyl, Selegiline and Anipryl).

So skip the cheese if you care about your pup. Chicken, turkey, eggs, chopped air dried venison sausages, sprats and even your dog’s own kibble (whatever he’s insanely in love with, basically!) can work as a high value reward instead, keeping your cocker focused and giving you a peace of mind.

Photo source: image by Дарья Колмагорова from Pixabay

Rape or rapeseed plant dangerous toxic and poisonous to dogs and why / Plants that are toxic to dogs / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

3 reasons to keep your dog away from rapeseed plant

I don’t know about you but I’ve always loved the yellow carpeted fields of rapeseed. They seemed cheerful & inviting, a true sign of spring.

Then I had my dogs & had to re-think the whole “romantic part” completely.

Rapeseed (Brassica napus) turned out to be one of the worst toxic plants for dogs because it contains glucosiolnates & S-methyl-L-cysteine-sulfoxide (an analog of alliin found in garlic, leeks & onions also known to cause haemolytic anaemia in dogs). It’s so bad, the pups don’t even need to digest rape to experience the ill effects.

And here’s why…

The entire plant is toxic if eaten. It can cause haemolytic anaemia (read, death sentence for ALL dogs), blindness, breathing difficulties & digestive problems. It can damage the nervous system, too.

Worst, rapeseed has another way to attack our dogs thanks to the plant’s natural “defence mechanism”.

Rape comes from the Brassicaceae family that can protect themselves by attacking any pests with what is known as “the mustard oil bombs”. Any damage to the plant activates the enzymatic response & causes rapeseed fire out a bunch of chemicals (nitriles & isothiocyanates) to repel the offender. It is suggested that it is the “bomb” that causes burns and skin reactions in any dog who comes in contact with the plant.

Third reason not to let your pup anywhere near the rapeseed is the level of herbicides & pesticides that the crops are sprayed with several times during the growing season. The chemicals are unlikely to be fatal to dogs, but they can cause issues and, if the dog is exposed to them regularly & for a period of time, lead to serious health problems in the future.

As I was preparing this post, I noticed two polar opinions about the rapeseed. Some research, toxicity manuals and dog owners claimed that the plant must be avoided. The other camp, mainly of growers and manufacturers, said that the quantities of the toxins are so low, the dogs would not experience any ill effects whatsoever.

Personally, I am not prepared to take risks. And I am posting this today to make you aware of both opinions, so the final decision is yours.

Photo source: image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

how to choose best natural treats and training treats for puppies and dogs / puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Your cocker will love these good-for-him treats

“What do you feed your dogs with?” is one of the questions I’m asked at least once a day. I don’t usually advise on the choice of dog food because I believe in individuality and the choice of dog food should depend on your dog, his health, age, gender, activity and preferences, and discussed with a knowledgable vet (though I’m more than happy to chat about different brands, ingredients and types of diets)

Treats are a bit different. They are something I give to my boys in addition to their meals – because if I don’t, they will queue in the kitchen forever…  I thought I’d put all our favourites in one post in case you’ve been curious but felt a bit shy to ask.

Remember that any new food must be introduced gradually, these foods below are suitable for healthy active dogs without any diagnosed health problems, any health issues you’re aware of or dogs who take any form of medicine, prescribed drugs or supplements. If you’re in doubt, always check with your vet!

The list below is condensed, but I’ve put a lot more info in my book Perfect cocker spaniel.

DAILY my boys have…
… home-made biscuits;
… natural yoghurt / kefir (they love the taste, plus it’s a tiny dose of some B vits, calcium, magnesium, and good bacteria);
… raw manuka honey (not suitable for dogs under 12 months of age. Full of minerals, antibacterial agents and yummy taste);
… raw organic virgin coconut oil (for fab fatty acids and antibacterial properties);
… raw dried sweet potato (makes a great chew, packed with beta-carotene, B vits, vit C, magnesium, calcium, iron & fiber;
… whatever is in season and always – organic. I limit the quantities to a couple of slices for cucumber/carrot, 1-2 strawberries or 4-5 berries like blueberries. Boys have one option per day, not a salad!

ONCE A WEEK pups also have…
…. a hard boiled egg, usually we use it for training;
… cooked plain chicken or turkey, again it’s a high value training treat;
… salmon (two very small pieces, just as a little treat);
… passata (2tsp, plain passata free from salt, herbs or any other flavorings. It’s not so much for the vitamin value but to keep the plaque away)

What is your dog’s favourite treat?

Photo source: image by katerinavulcova from Pixabay

Easter chocolate toxic poisoning for dogs / signs of chocolate poisoning / what to do if dog ate chocolate / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Easter chocolates & your dog

Chocolate-filled weekend is coming, so I wanted to write a little post about chocolate poisoning (that’s the spirit, right?)

Most people already know that chocolate is toxic for dogs. The darker the chocolate, the less of it is needed to make your dog ill.

White chocolate is not as dangerous as the milk and dark varieties because it contains practically no theobromine (about 0.75mg per 100g vs 1600mg per 100g of cooking dark chocolate). However, white chocolate can still cause diarrhoea and vomiting due to high fat content.

Signs of poisoning can take up to 12 hours to appear and may take up to several days to clear up.

Signs of chocolate poisoning include…
…heavy breathing
…increased heart rate
…increased urination
…anxiety and restlessness
…muscle tremors
…sudden death

If your dog ate chocolate, take them to the vets immediately. Tell the vet how much chocolate was eaten. Take the wrapper with you for extra information. The vet will stimulate vomiting using hydrogen peroxide and give the dog activated charcoal tablets to absorb theobromine (do not try to do it at home unless you know how!)

Avoid the risk by keeping any form of chocolate out of your dog’s reach. Remind your guests and kids not to give your spaniel any chocolate-containing treats.

Carob is a chocolate-like ingredient that can be given to dogs. If you choose to buy carob dog treats, always check the label for unwanted ingredients such as sugar, derivatives of animal or vegetable origin, milk, unspecified fats and oils, just to name a few.

Better still, stick with super safe and nutritious options like carrots, eggs, yummy cooked chicken or dog biscuits. Trust me, your cocker will not complain!

Photo source: image by Vratsagirl from Pixabay