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Routine Care

Give your pet the best life possible with routine and preventative care at Heath Vets

  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations
  • Neutering
  • Fleas
  • Ovulation Testing
  • Worming


Implantation is quick and painless, there is no scarring or disfigurement, and it cannot be removed or tampered with. We wholeheartedly recommend microchip identification for all dogs, cats and rabbits, and any other valuable animal. Microchipping is now compulsory for all UK dogs over 8 weeks old, and it is quite likely that it will be made compulsory for cats too.

There are several circumstances when a microchip is invaluable:

  • More and more official schemes will require individuals taking part to be microchipped
  • An injured stray animal is likely to end up at the vets surgery, and we need to be able to contact you urgently to find out how you would like us to look after your pet
  • If there is any dispute over the ownership of an animal - for example if a valuable animal is stolen - the microchip helps to proove ownership
  • If you wish to take your pet to Europe on holiday, the first requirement of the Pet Travel Scheme is identification by microchip


How are chips implanted?
Implantation of a chip is done by giving a simple injection. In the common domestic species, no anaesthetic is needed, and no stitches are required. In some birds and reptiles, the implantation site may need to be stitched and occasionally, local anaesthesia may be given.

What species?
Any species of animal can be implanted with an identification microchip. The commonest are dogs, cats, horses, parrots, birds of prey, tortoises and rabbits.

Where does the chip go?
In dogs and cats and rabbits, the chip is places between the shoulderblades. In other species, different sites of implantation are used. There is an international agreement regarding the recommended sites for implantation.

Who can read chips?
All vets, dog wardens, police forces, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Cat Protection and many other rescue oranisations are equipped with scanners to read chips. Being scanned for a microchip is one of the first things that happens to any stray animal.

What information is stored on a chip?
The chip contains nothing more than a unique 15-digit code. This code is registered on a national computer database, to which everyone who has a reader has access. Stored on the database with the chip number are the details of the animal and contact information for the owner.

How can I tell if an animal has been chipped?
Is it usually not possible to feel a chip with your fingers, and there are no visible marks, so the only way to tell if there is a chip is to scan the animal. Some dogs wear a collar tag that tells finders that they have a chip. Chips can be seen on x-rays.

Are there any dangers?
The chip is just an inert piece of bio-compatible glass. The body tissues react to it with a mild painless inflammation which results in the chip being embedded in some scar tissue. It does not emit any radiation or microwaves, etc. and there are no known effects on health.

I have heard of chips getting lost, migrating or failing to work
In the vast majority of animals, the chip stays where it was implanted, and because no moving parts or batteries to wear out, it remains functional for the whole of the animal's life. On very rare occasions, a chip may move to a different position under the skin - usually, it slips down to the side of the chest or lower. It has also been known for chips to work their way out of the implantation hole several days efter implantation. There are also a few reports of chips actually failing to work after a period when they were ok. For this reason, we recommend you occasionally ask us to check your pet's chip when you are visiting the surgery.

Do the chips work abroad?
The microchips used in the UK conform to international standards and scanners in all foreign countries should be able to read them. The central ownership database is UK-based; foreign-origin chips will not automatically be identified here, and our chips will not always re-unite pets with their owners abroad. However, a European-wide registration database is envisaged. Animals moving to the UK can be registered with PetLog for a small fee.


Prevention of infectious disease is a very important part of this strategy in pets as well as people.

One of the main reasons that our pets live longer and healthier lives now than they did 30 years ago is the success of mass vaccination in reducing outbreaks of debilitating and often fatal infectious disease.

Vaccinations should be given every year to maintain the pet’s immunity, until there is clear evidence of less frequent requirements. As part of our commitment to your pet’s health, we have a reminder system to notify you when the booster is due.

We know that in some animals, the immunity to some diseases provided by vaccination lasts longer than 12 months. However, we do not know which individuals these are. There is no reliable evidence of any significant adverse effects of vaccination, so until we are able easily to detect who is immune, it is safer to give booster vaccinations at the recommended yearly intervals to all patients.

Vaccines protect against Distemper (“hardpad”) Infectious Hepatitis, Parvovirus, ParaInfluenza Virus and Leptospirosis.


Two doses of vaccines are given, usually at 8 and 12 weeks of age (not younger). Adult dogs should have a booster vaccination every twelve months.

Kennel Cough
If your dog will be staying in a boarding kennels, or going to many dog shows, innoculation against Infectious Bronchitis (“Kennel Cough”) is also worthwhile. This is done by the vet administering a dose of nose drops. It must be given at least 5 days before kennelling.

Dogs which travel abroad on the Pet Travel Scheme will require vaccination against rabies at the prescribed intervals (it varies from annually to every three years, depending on the vaccine used).


Routine vaccinations protect against two cat-flu viruses (herpes- and calici-virus), Feline Infectious Enteritis, and Feline Leukaemia Virus.

Cats which travel abroad on the Pet Travel Scheme will require vaccination against rabies at the prescribed intervals (it varies from annually to every three years, depending on the vaccine used).

Two doses of vaccine are given, usually at 9 and 12 weeks of age (not younger). Adult cats should have a booster vaccination every twelve months.


Neutering dogs, cats and rabbits involves removing the ovaries and womb from females (spaying) and the testicles from males (castrating). The surgery is done usually at around 6 months of age, so before puberty (4 months in rabbits). At this age, the patient has grown sufficiently to cope well with the surgery, yet has not become hormonally active, so the surgery is less major.

Neutering is performed for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it is generally accepted that neutered animals are on the whole healthier; a number of medical conditions related to the reproductive system are common in older animals of both sexes, and neutering prevents these.

Additionally, there may be behavioural or psychological benefits, and sometimes we recommend neutering for these reasons. For example, male cats often spray pungent smelling urine to mark their territory, which can be a serious problem if it is in your living room! Many male animals can be aggressive at times, and neutering reduces this. Females on heat can be noisy, restless, even distressed if not allowed out to mate. Lastly, neutering makes an animal easier to look after – for example they are less inclined to roam, more docile/affectionate, no mess during the oestrus cycle in bitches.

Admissions procedure
All neutering is carried out under general anaesthesia. Therefore dogs and cats must be deprived of food from about midnight the previous evening, and the water bowl removed first thing in the morning. Rabbits do not need to be starved as they are unable to vomit. Patients should be brought to the surgery between 8.15 and 9 am on the appointed day. Please bring cats and rabbits in secure baskets/cages. A consent form will have been prepared and the nurse will ask you to read and sign it. The form points out that all operations and anaesthetics carry small risks, which you accept. If you want to discuss any aspect of the operation, the nurse or a veterinary surgeon will be happy to help. You will probably be asked to telephone for a progress report at lunchtime; at this time we will arrange when your pet will be ready for collection.

After admission, your pet will be weighed to enable the dose of anaesthetic to be accurately calculated. He/she will then be settled into a comfortable hygienic kennel until shortly before the operation. When the vet is ready for the patient, he/she is taken to the Preparation Room, where the vet gives check over to make sure there are no unexpected problems. A pre-med (sedative) may be given, and then the patient is anaesthetised, and the operation performed in the operating theatre. Afterwards, patients are kept under close observation until they are able to walk. They are then returned to their kennels to complete their recovery.

Neutering  Cats

Tom cats: In male cats, surgery is quite minor. Under a general anaesthetic, the scrotum is incised and the testicles are removed. There is no need for sutures. Patients are discharged the same day.

Queen cats: In female cats, the operation is a little more major. An incision is made in the left flank of the patient, and the ovaries and uterus are located and removed after ligating the blood vessels to prevent haemorrhage. The wound is sutured in several layers, and you will probably see between one and three skin stitches, which need to be removed after 10 days.

Some pedigree cats are spayed via a midline incision in the belly. This prevents the patch of shaved fur being visible. In the “pointed” coat-colour breeds (for example Siamese), the fur initially grows back a dark colour, before being replaced at the next moult with normal coat colour. The operation is slightly more uncomfortable when performed this way, and takes a little longer, but some owners prefer it.

Queens can be spayed during the early stages of pregnancy with no noticeable effects. Later on, the operation is a bit more major, necessitating a midline incision. Pregnancy up to about 7 weeks can be terminated like this, and although it can be a little traumatic at this stage for the cat, it may be better than allowing a 7 month-old kitten to give birth to and rear 4 or 5 kittens herself.

Neutering Dogs

Male dogs: Castration is relatively minor, although it is a bigger op than for cats. A single incision is made in front of the scrotum, the testicles are ligated and removed, and the incision sutured with one to three stitches which are removed 10 days later. This is a sensitive area in male dogs, and a few will lick incessantly at the operation site, causing problems. If this happens, a collar is used to protect to stitches until the incision has healed.

There are several medical and social reasons for castration. For instance, conditions in older dogs related to testosterone include:

  • Anal adenomata (small tumours round the anus which ulcerate and bleed)
  • Prostatic hypertrophy, leading to constipation and sometimes prostatitis
  • Tumours in the testicles
  • Retained testicles
  • Perineal hernia is seen almost exclusively in older entire male dogs; we do not fully understand why this is, but castration will prevent the problem

It should be noted that if any of the above conditions do develop in later life, one essential part of treatment will be castration, no matter how old the patient is.

There are also several behavioural problems which can be prevented or alleviated by castration:

  • Territory marking
  • Aggression
  • Dominance
  • Roaming
  • Mounting behaviour (with children, other dogs, or inanimate objects)
  • Restlessness or loss of appetite when a bitch nearby is in season

A castrated dog cannot father a litter, and it is generally regarded as socially responsible to have your dog neutered.

There is a very effective hormone implant for male dogs which lasts for 6 to 12 months. However, it is quite costly and a permanent surgical solution is much more economical. The implant is useful particularly in older dogs which need castration for medical reasons but can't have surgery. Sometimes, it is chosen before resorting to surgery by owners who would really prefer their dog to remain intact to see if a behavioural problem would be solved by castration.

Bitches: The surgery for females is actually quite a major op (ask any lady who’s had a hysterectomy!) but most bitches recover very quickly. An incision on the belly is made, usually 1 to 3 inches in length, and the ovaries and womb are removed after ligating the blood vessels. The skin is usually sutured but sometimes tissue glue is used. As with male dogs, some individuals lick incessantly and are determined to remove the sutures, so a collar may be needed to protect until they are removed after 10 days.

There are several medical and social reasons for spaying bitches. The bitch's uterus is in some ways like our appendix - it is rarely used, and often causes life-threatening problems, especially as the bitch gets older. The most common condition is called 'pyometra', in which the uterus fills with pus. Toxins from this are absorbed into the blood stream and 'poison' the whole system. The only treatment for this condition is to remove the affected uterus and ovaries but the animal is already in a weakened state and thus the risks of surgery are much greater than when spaying a fit animal. Other benefits include:

  • Bitches that never have a season do not get mammary cancers at all. The risk increases with each season that occurs until the sixth; after that, the risk is the same.
  • False pregnancies are prevented. These are a common problem for many bitches, and although not dangerous, they can be quite distressing to both animal and owner. Allowing a bitch to have a litter does not help prevent false pregnancies.
  • The social problems created by a bitch coming on heath every 6 months are completely eliminated by spaying. No more confinement, carpet cleaning or guarding against the attentions of would-be-suitors!
  • The bitch does not have a menopause. She continues to have heat cycles into her old age although the periods may become more irregular.

Neutering Rabbits

Bucks (males): In male rabbits, an incision is made in the skin of the scrotum over a testicle. It is then removed from the scrotum, the blood vessels to it are ligated, and the testicle is removed. The incision is sutured. The same procedure is repeated for the second testicle.

Does (females):  A common cause of death in old female rabbits is cancer of the womb. Spaying prevents this disease, and allows the doe to live a comfortable and happy life without the mood swings which often occur when she is in season. Does are spayed from about 4 months of age.

An incision is made on the belly behind the umbilicus. The ovaries and uterus are removed after carefully ligating the blood vessels, and the incision sutured in two or three layers. Rabbit tissues are much more delicate than dogs and cats, and we take great care to minimise tissue trauma. We always give painkillers after this surgery. Stitches are removed from the skin incision after 10 days.


Is it cruel?
No! Removing the testicles removes the dog's libido and interest in all matters sexual, so his inability to perform will not worry him at all.

Any side effects?
Owners are often worried that the dog may put on weight or change his temperament as a result of being neutered. There is no evidence that neutering will alter for the worse any aspect of a dog's mental or physical character. It will reduce their sense of status within the pack, leading to less conflict in the home. However, it rarely affects the dog's desire to guard their home.

Weight gain is a possible problem. If an animal eats more calories than it needs for daily exercise and keeping warm, the excess can either be burned off as waste heat or stored as fat. Which of these happens depends on the individual animal's metabolism. Un-neutered dogs tend to burn off excess calories, but castration often alters this tendency. Consequently, an amount of food fed before neutering may well lead to obesity afterwards. We recommend reducing the daily food intake by a third immediately a dog is castrated. If they then loses weight, the amount fed can be increased. We all know it is easier to gain weight than to lose it!

Urinary incontinence is sometimes seen in older spayed bitches. It is far more common in overweight individuals. Usually, it can be very successfully treated with medicine in the food.

What post-op care is needed?
Your dog will need a warm, quiet place to rest when they come home first. They must be encouraged to drink the same evening, but don't offer food unless they ask for it. If they are hungry, a light meal would be appropriate - scrambled eggs, boiled chicken or white fish. Don't give too much. Exercise should be restricted to the lead until stitches are removed (about 10 days post-op). For bitches, do not allow jumping onto furniture or going up and down stairs.


Most animals which go outdoors get fleas from time to time, often without their owners ever noticing. The fleas that infest our cats and dogs do not infest humans as well, although some people can receive very itchy bites.

The adult flea spends all its life on the host animal, rarely venturing off. Eggs (up to 27 per day or 2000 in a lifetime from each female) are laid in the coat, but the majority fall off into the carpets, bedding etc. where the pet lies. The eggs and larvae can remain dormant in houses for over a year if no suitable animals are available to feed from.

The effect of fleas on an animal varies from mild to severe irritation. The worst affected individuals suffer from an allergic reaction to the flea saliva! In this case it needs only a very few flea bites to produce a severe skin reaction. There are a variety of symptoms of flea infestation:

  • Tiny black specks of flea ‘dirt’ in the coat, especially around the rump
  • Small spots and scabs on the skin, especially on the rump, but also elsewhere on the trunk
  • Larger areas of ‘eczema’, scabs and infection
  • In summer, 'wet eczema', 'hot spots', etc., are often caused by fleas
  • Scratching can be mild, or there may be intense irritation
  • Fleas can also spread disease from one animal to another, and can spread tapeworms


Fortunately, we have many highly effective prescription products available to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, because of laws restricting the advertising of prescription medicines, we cannot tell you their names here, but we can give you information about them and then you can ask us their names!

When choosing a treatment, you need to consider a number of factors such as ease of use, cost, effectiveness, and safety (for both pet and you/your children). Many remedies are not safe for young animals so you must read the label carefully. Also, some treatments for dogs are highly toxic to cats, so make sure you buy a product right for the pet you are treating. If you get your flea control from the surgery, you can be sure it is correct for your pet. However, it is important to remember that prevention is better than cure, and we would always recommend that you adopt an ongoing preventive regime to ensure fleas never become an issue for you. The easiest way for cats is probably a six-monthly injection that prevents fleas from breeding; alternatively, a new spot-on treatment for cats controls ticks as well and although it has to be applied as a spot-on, it lasts for 3 months at a time so is not too onerous. For dogs, an easy-to-give monthly tasty chew-tablet kills fleas very effectively (and also roundworms and ticks).

Alternatively, there are safe and effective insecticides that are applied as a spot-on liquid to the back of the pet’s neck every month or so, but this is often not as easy as an injection or a tasty chew, and it leaves a residue on the coat.

There are many other products (shampoos, sprays, collars, powders, spot-ons) available in the shops, but you may well find they are much less effective than the prescription treatments you can get from us.

Ask our advice and we can find the right treatment for you and your pet.

Environment Treatment

Flea infestations invariably arise from eggs hatched in the animal’ home environment. Removal of flea eggs and larvae is a very important step in dealing with an outbreak.

Thorough and frequent vacuuming is necessary, but to augment this we recommend the use of long-acting household sprays. These prevent development of eggs and larvae by a hormone effect for twelve months, and also have a short-lived action against adult fleas. They should be used on all the soft furnishings with which the pets come in contact: carpets, cushions, bottom of curtains, etc. – paying particular attention to the edge of the room. Follow the directions carefully, and be sure not to apply too sparingly. These are very safe products, even when there are young children around, but they are toxic to fish so you must take great care if you have a fish tank.

Breaking The Flea Life-Cycle And Preventing Recurrence

Over recent years one particular treatment has proved very effective in  preventing fleas ever becoming established in your home. If given regularly to the pet, the drug is taken up by the fleas when they bite and it interferes with the ability of the flea egg to hatch, effectively sterilising the fleas. Cats are injected by the vet just once every six months and dogs are treated with a monthly tablet (which also prevents roundworms). The few fleas which your pets may be pick up during social contact outdoors are not killed, but they die off naturally quite quickly, or are removed by normal grooming.

The treatment is quite safe for any age of pet, even in pregnancy or during illness, and can be given alongside any other medication. It has no harmful properties for mammals or for the environment. If it is used regularly, through the winter as well as summer, there will never be a problem with a household flea infestation.

Ovulation Testing

Ovulation testing is useful if you have to travel a long way to the stud dog, or if your bitch has a history of poor conception rates or failed previous matings. It is also useful in pin-pointing the time of conception, and therefore the expected whelping date.

Conventionally, bitches are mated at about the 12th or 13th day of the season, and this usually works fine. However, we have found that many bitches that have failed to conceive, or have had small litters in the past do not ovulate at the expected time. Correct mating time (even as late as the 24th day) has then resulted in good litters.

Traditionally, bitches whelp 63 days after mating, give or take seven days. We have found that bitches mated according to the timing from the ovulation test will whelp 64 days later, with very few exceptions. This can be very useful if your breed has a history of whelping problems, as it can be difficult to tell when a bitch has started, and therefore when to become alarmed at a lack of progress. A bitch which has been ovulation tested and has not whelped by day 65 is usually in trouble. Veterinary intervention is therefore earlier and more effective.

How does it work?

Shortly before ovulating, the concentration of the hormone progesterone in blood rises much higher than normal. It then remains high throughout the following 9 weeks (whether or not the bitch is pregnant). By knowing when this increase occurs, we can say when ovulation occurs, and so we know when conception will be best.

A blood sample is taken from the bitch in the morning and sent by guaranteed delivery to the lab.The result is available the next day, and will indicate if it is time to mate, or if not, when the next test should be done.

It is essential to start testing before the expected date so that the timing of the increase can be found. Blood samples are usually taken on the 7th or 8th day from the start of the season., and repeated at intervals until ovulation occurs.


There are many different intestinal worms that can infect our pet dogs and cats. They are all parasites, and they cause a variety of problems from mild ill-thift to serious illness and potentially death, depending on which worm is involved, how bad the infestation is, and the general health of the individual.

Some worms can also affect people. Most puppies and kittens have worms when they are born or become infested soon after birth from their mother’s milk. Older pets are at risk of infection from soil contaminated with worm eggs/larvae where other animals have defaecated, and from eating infected prey. Slugs and snails can also transmit a particularly nasty worm to dogs. Since most pets are regularly at risk of infection, and the consequences of infection can be serious, a programme of regular preventive treatment is appropriate for most pets. This page gives some general advice about worms and worm treatment, but you should ask us to help you find the best worm control regime for your pet.

Types Of Worms

These look like strings of spaghetti or elastic bands in the faeces of infected animals. Eggs may be picked up from the environment where dogs and cats have defaecated. Puppies can be infected from their mother even before birth, and both kittens and puppies can be infected from their mother’s milk. Certain roundworms can also be passed on to humans, where a rare, but serious, complication can be blindness in young children. The commonest way for children to become infected is from eggs stuck to the dog’s fur, spread there when he is cleaning himself. Symptoms of infection, aside from seeing worms in the faeces or vomit, may include poor growth and pot-bellied appearance in young animals, diarrhoea, weight loss and general failure to thrive.

You may find segments of these worms excreted in the animal’s faeces – they look like flattened grains of rice. Tapeworms cannot be passed directly from one animal to another as they rely on an intermediate host such as a flea, rodent, rabbit or sheep. The commonest is the flea tapeworm, so if you see tapeworm segments from your pet, you should treat for fleas also. To catch the other sorts of tapeworm, the pet has to eat the infected part of the host animal (usually the liver). Symptoms of disease are rarely seen but a heavy infestation could cause anaemia, lethargy, loss of appetite and a dull lifeless coat.

Lungworm, otherwise known as “French heartworm” is an emerging problem for dogs in the UK, and there have been confirmed cases in Cardiff. This is a very serious disease, as the worms live in the heart and arteries to the lungs, and can be fatal. It is transmitted by slugs and snails and dogs become infected by accidentally or deliberately eating one while foraging, eating grass, drinking from puddles, playing with toys outside, etc. Symptoms include coughing, breathlessness, coughed up blood, bleeding disorders and anaemia. You will not see any evidence of the worm in the faeces of affected animals as only the eggs are passed out. Cats have their own type of lungworm which fortunately is rare in the South Wales area and causes a less serious illness.

These are a type of roundworm, but they often enter the host’s body through the skin of the feet, and can therefore also cause sore feet, especially in dogs from crowded kennel environments where infection levels can build up. They are much less common than ordinary roundworms, but when they are present in large numbers can cause severe anaemia as well as skin sores.


It’s especially important to treat kittens and puppies for roundworms regularly during their first six months as they may have been infected at birth or by their mother’s milk. We will recommend a suitable treatment schedule, which will depend on a number of factors assessed by the vet. For dogs, the most convenient treatment is a monthly tablet, taken with a meal, which provides protection against fleas as well. If you don’t want to use the combined flea/worm treatment, you should give a worming dose every three months. Lungworms in dogs are more difficult to treat than most worms, and need a prescription wormer from the surgery to deal with them. We generally recommend worming cats every three months. For them, we have a very effective tablet, or alternatively a drug which is applied as a spot-on liquid and absorbed through the skin – useful for those cats who hate taking tablets.

There are other effective medicines available in the surgery too, and our trained staff will be able to advise you on the most suitable one for your pets. However, no worming treatment will prevent re-infestation which is why it is so important to treat your pet regularly, especially if they hunt or scavenge.

Pregnancy and lactation pose a particular risk as the mother’s immune system is less robust at this time, and many worms become more numerous, posing an increased threat to their puppies and kittens. Worming with a suitable drug should be done every 2 weeks throughout pregnancy and while feeding the young.

Because of the potential risk to children from some roundworms (very small risk  but still significant), we recommend all cats and dogs in contact with children should have a roundworm treatment every month.