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

Tottering by Annie Tempest / covid19 panic shopping / dog food / how to feed your dog when you are self-isolating / home made dog diet food recipe / published on Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / advice and tips for English cocker spaniel owners / canine nutrition tips / (C) Natalia Ashton

Feeding your dog during self-isolation & panic buying | Part I

Who would have thought that we will have to discuss this subject? Just a few weeks ago everything seemed fine, shops were full, commercial dog food was available in abundance and everyone could get on with life as nature intended.

Alas, things changed in a blink of an eye. I had to buy a little extra for us from what was still available. Then proceeded to get more food for the boys. Ironically, I always have good supplies of their food because I don’t like the idea of running out (and facing their quizzical facial impressions at breakfast time!) This time I decided to get a little more, just to cover a couple of extra weeks. Suddenly, there was very little available. I got shivers running down my spine. Panic-googled. Found the food. Stocked up and felt my blood pressure and breathing returning to normal.

But I couldn’t stopped thinking about people who may have to self-isolate or simply shopped “as usual” and couldn’t get supplies for their pups. So I decided to write a couple of posts to help.  Today we will talk about safe and nutritious food ingredients that can be found in our fridge and pantry, or bought during with the rest of the groceries. Tomorrow I will share a recipe for a home made dog food, which should help you get by for a few days or even weeks without putting your dog at risk.

The idea is to give your dog a recipe that will provide the basic nutrients including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from the sources that are 100%. You may need to consult a vet if you have a puppy or a dog who has been unwell or diagnosed with a health condition because their diet will be slightly different and need to be customised further and based on each individual dog.


Poultry (chicken, turkey – free-range or organic if possible) – source of essential amino acids including calming tryptophan, vitamins A, D, B3, B5, B12, folate, choline, minerals potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, small quantities of essential fats. Always choose lean meat and remove the skin. Unless your dog requires a special prescription diet, the dark meat (i.e. skinless thighs) that is often more budget-friendly, is absolutely fine. So don’t think your cocker will need to eat breast meat as a rule.

Meat (beef, lamb, venison – grass-fed is possible) – source of essential amino acids, vitamins B3, B12, minerals including iron, zinc, choline, and phosphorus. Grass-fed meat will also be a good source of vitamin E. Meat, especially venison, is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Always choose extra lean meats and remove any visible fat. If your dog is on prescription diet, do not use red meats unless it was agreed with your vet.

Eggs (free-range or organic if possible) – ideal source of protein, source of vitamins A, D, B2, B5, B12, biotin, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and iodine.Raw egg whites contain avidin that prevents absorption of biotin. Always cook them before feeding to your dog.

Liver (chicken or lamb, free-range, grass-fed or organic if possible) if your dog can eat it without problems. It’s a very condensed source of nutrients including iron, vitamins A, D,  and group B, and thus should only be fed in very small quantities, never – as a main protein source of the dog’s diet and only to dogs without underlying or diagnosed health problems unless discussed with a vet.

Fish (cod, sardines, salmon, trout, herring) – dogs need more fish in comparison to meat. Bear this in mind when planning their diet. Fish is a great source of protein, one of the best sources of vitamins B12 and D, B6, minerals phosphorus, iodine and choline, and essential fatty acids.

However be careful with oily fish – the oils do have benefits, but any fatty fish can increase the risk of pancreatitis. Too much of Omegas can lead to inflammation instead of benefits and cause vitamin E deficiency. Fish may also contain heavy metals or pesticide residue.

Fish must always be cooked because it contains an enzyme called thiaminase that affects absorption of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and some fish can contain a parasite Neorickettsia helmonthoeca, which can lead to potentially fatal poisoning.

Do not feed dogs any tinned fish containing salt and/or spices.


Grains (rice, buckwheat, oats) – grains work as a source of B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Buckwheat, which is a seed, not a grain as such, is one of the best sources of rutin, zeaxanthin and lutein. Oats provide biotin, magnesium, molybdenum and phosphorus. Beside their nutritional brilliance, grains work as the most straightforward and simple way to add both soluble and insoluble fibre to your dogs diet and ensure that his digestive tract and anal glands remain healthy.

Sweet potato – a wonderful vegetable source of fibre, vitamin A, group B vitamins, vitamins C and K, copper, manganese and zinc. You can replace sweet potato with butternut squash or pumpkin, which keep longer. You can also buy frozen chopped squash cubes. They will last for months in the freezer.

You can use one of the sources for the carbohydrate part of the meal, combine them 50/50 or do 2 parts of rice and 1 part of sweet potato.

If you run out of absolutely everything above, your dog can have plain pasta. It’s not ideal but it will work for a few days.


Hempseed, flaxseed or sunflower oil (cold pressed) – a source of ALA, alpha-linoleic acid, the most important fatty acids for dogs. Hempseed and sunflower oil are to be used for dogs fed a meat-based diet, whilst flaxseed creates the right balance of fatty acids in diets based on chicken and eggs.

Coconut oil (extra virgin, cold-pressed) – another great source of linoleic acid, this oil is also a source of lauric acid known for its antibacterial properties.

Delicious additions:

You will have everything covered with the basic ingredients, but the foods below will add extra goodness to any meal. They fall into 10% of less of the total daily diet for your pooch. Really, choose a couple per day and rotate every other day.

Eggs shells – as a source of calcium when you can’t get commercial dog food with added vitamins and minerals. Collect eggs shells, clean and dry them, remove the inner membrane, spread on a shallow tray and bake at 150C for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool and grind into a powder using a coffee grinder. Store in an air tight container. If egg powder is not for you, use a supplemental form of calcium such as Riaflex made of green lipped mussels. A dog needs about 50mg of calcium per 1 kg of body weight or about 1mg of calcium per 1 calorie, which means that an average adult cocker needs about 700mg of calcium daily. 1g of egg shell provides 400mg.

Yoghurt (natural, organic, no added flavour, sugars, preservatives or sugar substitutes such as xylitol) – yoghurt will add beneficial bacteria and calcium. Most dogs can tolerate up to 1tbsp of yoghurt without any issues.

Blueberries (fresh or frozen – here goes your supply for blueberry muffins) or cranberries – it is safe to give 2 berries per 1 kilo of dog’s body weight. More can cause diarrhoea.

Passata – choose sieved (seed free) passata made of 100% tomatoes, without added salt, citric acid, sugar and spices. 1 tsp per day for an adult cocker is enough. Do not confused with unripe tomatoes or any parts of the tomato plant that are toxic to dogs.

Carrots – 1-2 thin slices, cooked or raw.

Cucumbers – 1-2 thin slices, raw, but seeds removed.

Nori or seaweed – 1/4 tsp per day.

Apples – 1-2 thin slices per day, seeds must be removed.

Honey (raw honey or whenever possible, raw manuka honey) – extra minerals, plus it’s antibacterial and antiviral.

Also a word of warning for those feeding raw. Whilst I do not advocate it for English cockers, I understand that is your choice and I respect that. Just be careful if you have to store extra quantities of raw meals because they may not keep well for long periods of time. Take extra precautions when handling it, too, especially when you are not well because your immune system will be susceptible to bacteria and viruses. Consider cold pressed food option whenever possible.

If you would like to learn more about canine nutrition for English cocker spaniels, you will find all the information in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel

Image credit: with a big Thank you to wonderful Annie Tempest / Tottering by Gently / for allowing me to use this fabulous cartoon 


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)

Collagen dog chews. Are they really a safer alternative to rawhide?

Have you heard of the new dog chews that were introduced recently? Marketed as “natural collagen chews” and a “safe alternative to rawhide”, they sounded too good to be true, so the sceptic in me got really curious.

According to the manufacturers, the “chewllagen” treats are made from “corium”, a part of the skin that consists of collagen and this is what makes the new chews different and safe compared to the typical rawhide.

It does sound really wonderful, promising, convincing and science’y for anyone not particularly concerned with the anatomy of the skin. However, being a nutritionist and a kind of dog mum who likes to get to the bottom of everything that goes into my dog’s mouth, I did think of the physiology part, and that’s when my inner sceptic got partially confused and partially frustrated.

Naturally all mammals have a very similar skin structure. The top layer may be different depending on the species and environment (for example, an alligator skin will certainly be different from the rabbit’s or pheasant, and the latter will, indeed, will look different compared to the human skin), but the layers of the skin and their primarily functions will be very much alike.

All skins can be divided into two main layers – the epidermis (also known as epithelium) or the outer layer, and the dermis (or corium) the thicker layer that lies underneath the epidermis.

The epidermis portion of the skin is very thin yet strong. It forms a barrier between the body and the environmental dangers including pathogens, chemicals and UV rays. It also supports natural detoxification and protects internal organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels from injuries.

The corium, or epidermis, is a much thicker structure made primarily from collagen that gives the skin strength and flexibility.

The epidermis and dermis are separated from each other by a coloured and textured membrane known as a “glassy layer”.

During the leather manufacturing process the layer of epidermis is removed completely to expose the texture of the glassy layer attached to the dermis following by another phase that deals with hair follicles, glands and colour variations as well as a treatment that kills fungi, bacteria, yeast and other forms of life through the process called putrefaction. To achieve this, all hides must go through several stages that may include soaking in water, acetic acid and glycerine, alcohol processing, freezing, and using chemicals such as lime, sulphides, ammonia, aspartic, hydrochloric and butyric acids, mercuric chloride, lead acetate, and various salts (The Principles of Leather Manufacture by H.R. Procter & The Manufacture of Leather by Hugh Garner Bennett).

If the “glassy layer” is also stripped, the hides look like a white porous sheet that cannot be used for leather-making, but can be further processed and reconstituted to make, you guessed it, rawhide chews!

As a result, any raw hide chew may contain traces of chemicals, possible toxins, bacteria and pathogens. Some can also be treated with flavours and enhances. However, all raw hides are still natural, can be digested (the study that tested various dog treats concluded that all raw hides have a digestibility between 14.2 and 99.5), are a source of protein or, if I am to be precise, collagen, and free from gluten, artificial flavours and ingredients. The raw hides are said to be made from “the deeper layer of the skin”.

They can be dangerous because some dogs would struggle to fully digest the tissue, while others may be sensitive to the chemical compounds used in leather manufacturing. A typical raw hide also adds too much protein to the dogs diet, somost puppies will likely have diarrhoea as a result. Another problem with excessive protein intake in puppies is the potential rapid growth, which can cause skeletal problems in the future. Additionally, any dog may end up with an obstruction after swallowing a large chunk of the treat.

Now we have the new option. The collagen chew. The “all natural”, “high in protein”, “collagen-rich”, “digestible”, “free from grains, gluten and artificial ingredients” perfection made from “the bottom layer of the skin called corium”. In the small print, we are asked to supervise the dog whilst he is playing with the chew and, when the treat  “becomes softened and stretched” (which is also very typical characteristic of a natural raw hide chew) – cut this part off  before the dog can have the rest back. The new chew is manufactured by the same companies that produce the raw hide treats.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if we compare the notes from the basic skin anatomy I’ve talked about in the beginning of this post and the brief description of leather and hide manufacturing in the middle of my story, corium is the only layer of the skin that can be used for both the raw hides and the collagen chews. Same layer marketed under different name because it happens to have three interchangeable versions (the commonly used “deeper layer” or “hide” is just a synonym for “the derma”, “the corium”, or “the cutis”). There are simply no other layers in the skin that are high in collagen and can be rolled into a cigar or doughnut shape unless, of course, some company will take the bones and congestive tissues and reconstitute them into powder, sheets and the final product.

Which makes the new collagen chew identical to the old raw hide and leaves me feeling like the boy from the Emperor’s New Clothes tale.

I would be very happy to be incorrect, but for now I would prefer to remain very sceptical about the new option and stick with carrots and home made biscuits for my pups instead.

What do you think? Would you consider these chews as a treat for your dog?


Can my dog eat almonds / safe and toxic foods for dogs / dogs nutrition / best diet for english cocker spaniel / diet tips for dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Can my dog eat… almonds?

Since nutrition has always been one of my passions (and a job) I’ve decided to make it a permanent feature on Perfect cocker spaniel. Would be a shame not to since I hold qualifications in both human and canine nutrition, right?

I know I’ve already talked about the subject in the past discussing specific ingredients, avocados, cheese, and chocolate, talking about healthy dog treats, vegan diet, pancreatitis, and how to keep your dog’s weight under control, but it was always random. I’d like to change it and focus on the topic thoroughly.

“Can my dog eat…” posts will be a part of it. I’ll add them to the blog at least once a week and keep on going until we cover every edible and not-so-edible titbit.

Done with the prelude, lets talk about food!

Today we are focusing on ALMONDS in our dogs’ diet. Personally I love almonds very much: they are perfect on a go, full of vitamins, minerals, good oils and fibre, perfect for my skin and hormones, and make a fab substitute for flour.


The answer is NO.

Almonds contain cyanide compounds called cyanogenic glycosides, which is toxic to both dogs and humans. However, the sweet almonds sold in supermarkets and used in cooking contain very little quantities (16-32mg/kg), which makes them perfectly safe.

However, even though sweet almonds are not toxic to dogs, they may cause a few issues. First of all, almonds are not something that dogs can easily digest and can suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting, discomfort, bloating, gas, lack of appetite and lethargy. Almonds are high in fat, which can increase the risk of pancreatitis. If a dog swallows a whole almond, the nut may cause obstruction and be life-threatening.

Almonds may also be contaminated with aflatoxins (the toxic by-product produced by fungi that is often found in soil) that can cause damage to the nervous system, liver failure, or haemylytic anaemia, increase the risk of cancer and  be fatal to dogs.

In the other hand, bitter almonds (which can be found in some shops and online) provide 6.2mg of cyanide per almond, or about 1100mg/kg, are highly toxic to dogs and can be fatal if eaten.

Since, unlike humans, dogs don’t really rip any health benefits from almonds, it’s best to avoid them completely. Also remember to check ingredients labels on your dog’s food and treats to ensure they are almond-free.


Image credit:  Free-Photos 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

Dog paws in snow photo / Salt, grit, antifreeze poisoning and dangers in dogs in winter / signs of poisoning in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, grooming, diet (C)

Two winter dangers that can be fatal for your dog

“The frost and sunlight! The winter day’s delightl!” Pushing once wrote (and I briefly translated, so no judgment for my rhyming skills, please!) in his “Eugene Onegin” poetry novel.

He was spot on. Winter is a beautiful season to embrace and enjoy. The dogs adore it, too. Mine cannot wait to get outside and do their version of snow angels, which basically involves rubbing their silly happy faces against the frosty grass – bottoms up, wiggling and wagging.

They think everything about winter is fun. But unfortunately there are two serious dangers neither pups nor many pup parents are aware of, so we need to talk about those today.

SALT & GRIT (also called de-icers) appear on our roads and paths at the first hint of arctic breeze. They can be easily spotted as most have a pink or terracotta-like tint. Both can be extremely dangerous for dogs and even cause a fatal outcome. Even though salt seems pretty harmless (we do eat it, don’t we?!) the combination of sodium, chloride and ferrocyanide can cause severe irritation, burning and cracked paws if the dog walks through the grit.

Licking the paws or de-iced surfaces can be life-threatening because the excess of sodium chloride is toxic to dogs leading to a condition called hypernatremia.

The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, frequent urination, tremors, seizures and coma. The paws can look red, swollen, irritated, cracked and excessively dry.

Protect your spaniel by diligently washing and drying his paws after every walk (even if the path and roads you walk on seems grit-free); applying protective paw wax before each walk and, if the gritting is excessive in your area – considering dog booties; stopping your dog from licking his paws and any surfaces that may contain traces of grit.

But what if the path is still slippery? There are a few ways to stay safe:

… invest into non-slip boots;

… use a shovel to clear the path from the snow and thick ice;

… splash the path you use most frequently with a bucket or two of hot water – it’s enough to melt the ice and frost;

… use plain rough sand instead of grit and salts – it will give you the needed grip yet will be absolutely safe for your dog.

ANTIFREEZE is the other danger of winter. The solution contains ethylene glycol that tastes sweet to dogs and a small dose can lead to kidney failure and death. Even if you are incredibly careful when using it for your own car, the antifreeze residue can be often found on roads, parking spaces and snow and get onto your dog’s paws.

Dogs are one of the most susceptible species.

The symptoms of poisoning can appear within 30 minutes following ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, drunken behaviour, lack of coordination and knuckling, excessive thirst and urination, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

Protect your dog by storing antifreeze away from your pooch’s access; using it correctly and cleaning any residue on your car, hands and surfaces; washing your dog’s paws after each walk and, should you suspect anything odd, taking your spaniel to the vets immediately.

Have a safe and enjoyable winter! 

Photo credit: image by petronela 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