7 Questions Before You Register with a Veterinary Clinic

DSCF0997_editedRealistically most people attend their nearest vet. If you are lucky enough to have a choice then here are a few things to think about to avoid potential disappointment further down the line.

Out of Hours Policy

All vets must provide 24 hour emergency cover BUT this can take different forms. Traditionally your own veterinary surgeons cover this out of hours answering the phone 24 hours a day 365 days a year. This will still be the case in many vets however emergency clinics are popping up all over the place and in many cases their veterinary surgeons cover the on call for a large number of practices.

Pros – you get a wide awake staff and a clinic set up specifically to deal with emergecnies; the staff may have further qualifications in emergency and critical care.

Cons – the emergency clinic might be miles away from your usual clinic; you (and your pet) won’t be familiar with the staff or the building; they may have a different pricing structure to your own vet; they may not have ready access to your pets medical records.

DSCF0995In-Patient Care

In some veterinary clinics there will be 24 hour supervision of hospitalised patients. Usually these are the clinics also providing 24 hour emergency cover.

Some clinics will use the out-of-hour emergency provider to look after their in-patients and this will mean someone will have to transport the animal to another location.

In other clinics the animals will be checked during the night. Obviously no animal is neglected but in some clinics there may be lonely parts of the night if animals are otherwise stable and not requiring treatment.


All veterinary surgeons graduate as a jack of all trades and are familiar with routine procedures but if your pet needs more complex treatment, for example surgery on a broken limb or more sophisticated diagnostics, can these be done in the same clinic or will you have to be referred to another practice.

Some clinics will be a one stop shop with specialists in all fields. Other clinics will do the basics and send you elsewhere for more complex procedures.


Most cats find a trip to the vets stressful but some practices make the visit easier than others. There are cat friendly clinics and these will have separate waiting areas, a separate cat ward and maybe even cat-only clinics to avoid cats having to endure a room full of barking dogs as well the vet.

Open clinics or Appointments

Very few vet practices have open clinics because they are inevitably busy and chaotic. However, they can be handy for some people if they don’t mind the wait. Most clinics run appointment systems but it would be worth knowing the average waiting times as even with an appointment time the waits can be lengthy in some practices.


Clinics operating over various sites are handy so you don’t have to travel so far. This is great for routine appointments. However, bear in mind branches are often smaller than the main clinic meaning they are less well stocked, have less staff and your animal may have to be transported to a main clinic for further treatment.DSCF1237_edited


I’ve put this last deliberately. Price is always the first thing people think about but I think it’s better addressing the above points first. Decide on the level of care you feel comfortable with. Every pet owner is different. Some people like cheap and cheerful others want the gold standard. Generally, the level of care you want is directly proportional to the cost.

If you want to compare prices, asking about the price of a dog booster or cat spay is advisable as these procedures should be roughly comparable across clinics. You may also be interested in how much they charge for a prescription.




Tails.com (review):Tailored dog food to your door

WP_20160301_006.jpgI’m no pet nutritionist and despite having a background in veterinary medicine I tended to feed my greedy Labrador cross whatever was handiest. He’ll eat anything and has a stomach of steel!  But, now he is an elderly man of nearly 12 I decided to try a different approach. Spurred on by a little faecal incontinence I wondered if a change in diet might help…essentially I was looking to de-bulk his poo! Anyway, a trial code offering 2 weeks of dog food delivered to my door for £1 was dangled in front of me and a few clicks later I found myself signed up to Tails.com. I admit I expected to cancel it after the first delivery. To my surprise, a year later, we’re still enjoying dog food to our door. Obviously home delivered dog food is nothing new but the unique selling point of Tails.com is that the diet is tailor made to your dog, and yes, it has helped his faecal incontinence a little.

Certainly what comes out the other end is much healthier looking than it used to be!

So, our boy gets a balance of “senior care“, “mature vitality” and “joint care“. What’s more, you get a scoop to measure the exact daily requirement for your dog, even taking into account whether or not they get scraps off the table. For anyone with an overweight dog I think this could really help with the diet!

The ingredient list is transparent for any hard core nutritionists out there. I was impressed by the high percentage of meat (this is not for vegetarians!) compared with other brands. The diet also includes some of the currently fashionable supplements – glucosamine, chondroitin and L-carnitine. Now, I’m the ultimate sceptic and as far as I know these supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to make any difference but they are popular and some people swear by them. They do no harm so I say, why not. It’s better in the food than me having to buy  and administer them separately! I’m also not sure my dog needs tailor made kibble for easy chewing in older dogs – he’s a Labrador – but, if you have a dog less greedy or with dental problems then this may appeal to you?

Also if you dog’s stomach is less steel-like or maybe if they have allergies then I’m sure the food can be made with this in mind. Maybe a good option for dogs on exclusion trials?

Price wise it compares to a mid range brand and considering it comes straight to your door it’s great value for money.

Anything that comes straight to your door in Northern Ireland without a silly surcharge gets a big shiny gold star:-)

Finally, the usability of the Tails.com web platform is fantastic. The website is incredibly simple and effective. You can set up your account in minutes and have food dispatched almost immediately. If you need more/less food you can cancel or pause your deliveries to suit. I’ve never had a problem.

So, if you want to try it out for yourself you can use my “Fetch Your Friends” code: LAURAVHH. You will get 2 weeks of tailored dog food to your door for £1. There is no catch and you can very easily, with one click of a button, cancel your account if you’re not impressed. If you use my voucher code I will get £10 credited to my account but the truth is I was half was through writing this review before I even realised the “Fetch You Friends” deal existed. It doesn’t change my opinion…we love Tails.com regardless:-)




How to Turn Your Dog Poo Green

WP_20151018_006 1So, here I am banging on about “Going Green” but I haven’t even giving the carbon pawprint of my furry friend a second thought. Apparently owning a dog is similar to owning having a child in terms of waste produced (I personally don’t think the similarities end there!) so I guess it’s time to audit the pooch! First on the agenda is poo…

Poo is a daily reality of all dog owners. We’re forever scooping the poop and most of us are bagging it and binning it. But all those little “poo bags” go straight to landfill, and it’s filling up fast. Poo is a problem. It carries bugs – Toxocara parasite and E.coli bacteria are the most well known but there are all kinds of bacteria, fungi and viruses in that little pile and it has to go somewhere…

Biodegradable Poo Bags

A quick google search finds all is not equal in the world of bio-degradation! But, all in all I find  BioBags to be the degradation winner and they can be purchased in both the UK and US. However, rumour has it, even these little corn bags find it hard to degrade in landfill conditions!

Even supposedly “biodegradable” items don’t really bio-degrade in low oxygen landfill conditions.

So with this in mind, if you have plastic bags which are going to landfill anyway then reusing them one last time for dog poo may not be such a sin? Personally, I’ve been using the plastic wrapper from loaves of bread. In our house these would have ended up in the bin anyway! Of course if you’ve achieved a zero waste house then (well done) this won’t seem like a sensible option at all.

There is no green option for putting poo in the bin.

Flushable Poo Bags

My first reaction was “no way” but I’ve researched it and, yes, flushing dog poo down the toilet does seem like a pretty green option. Water companies don’t seem to have any problem with dog poo entering the water treatment plant.

Of course we’re still talking about using bags but these little bags break down in water as you flush. I guess it might be risky on a long walk on a wet day! If you have a big dog there might be a risk of blockages but generally that doesn’t seem to be problem. The bags are made from polyvinyl alcohol which apparently degrades and doesn’t have any negative effect on the environment but presumably there’s oil involved in the manufacturing process so they can’t really be entirely green!

The ultimate option in flushable poo seems to be to install the DoggyBog straight into your waste pipe outside. This avoids the problem of traipsing into your bathroom with your poo bag and does sound convenient. If you’re scooping poop in your garden then you can avoid bags altogether!


If you are so inclined you can embrace a dog poo wormery. But, the bugs remain and the end product can’t be used on your veggies or, in my opinion, anywhere children are likely to be playing. There are various wormeries on the market e.g. Earth Essentials, Original Organics. I’ve never used one so can’t review them. There are very hit and miss reports on the web but if you have a use for the end product, have time to do your research and maintain it properly then there’s no reason why not.

Remember a wormery is for life, not just for Christmas – it’s made of plastic!


Composting has similar drawbacks to wormeries (minus the worms!) in terms of the end product still containing harmful nasties. You can’t just add the poo to your usual compost bin either but it’s not hard to set up a dog poo composter if you have a garden. To be fair it’s not really composting- more like a septic tank. It’s essentially a bucket sunk into the ground and once you add an activator/digester the poo breaks down and leaches into the nearby soil. Be careful where you site the bucket!

A budget composter doesn’t have a huge set up cost and web reviews seem quite good but it is made of plastic:-( The need for an activator is  a bit of an eco-worry -the little plastic bags of bright blue chemical don’t look very natural to me!

A better, albeit more costly option, might be the Doggy Dooley. They even have a steel version and their digester powder is a “non-toxic, harmless mixture of natural bacteria and enzyme cultures”….it’s not blue! Overall, this looks like a pretty good option!


There’s no perfect option. Scooping poo into a bin doesn’t seem to ever be an eco-friendly option no matter what fancy biodegradable bags you use. Wormeries are fine but I get the impression they are more prone to failure. I’m most impressed by the DoggyBog and Doggy Dooley. I’d love to hear from anyone using these options. I wonder if there’s potential for them to be used in kennels and vet clinics?

New baby? 5 Dog’s Eye Views

WP_20151018_006It’s happened. You’ve been their trusty companion for X years but recently you’ve been sidelined. Giving their dating track record you didn’t think it would ever happen. Eventually you had to make room on the sofa for the husband – that was bad enough! Now there’s a new kid in town and it’s screeching round the clock and tearing up the house…no, they’ve not got a cat…they’ve had a baby!! How do you know….

1. Walks

Your thrice daily walks have been replaced by a brief buggy push if you’re lucky and only if it coincides with nap time. The walk time preparation seems to take longer than the walk. Snowsuits…raincovers…changing bags. Wake me when you’re actually ready to leave the house.WP_20160210_004

2. Toys

The house used to littered with your toys but ever since the baby started to lick your Kong they have gradually been placed out of reach….both from the baby, and from you. Ironically, the babies toys look mighty similar to your own toys…all very confusing!

3. Water

Your water bowl has moved outside ever since the baby was found blowing bubbles in it. Now you have to stand in the rain and wind to have a drink. You remember a time when you ate and drank in the kitchen with the rest of the family.

4. Confinement

You seem to have progressively less access to the house. You remember when you used to sleep on the human’s bed. Now there are stair gates all over the place. At least your chair remains untouched. To add insult to injury you’ve even been relegated to the car boot when you go for a drive. Once you were even left at home because there was no room for you and the buggy!!!

But, hey, it’s not all bad….

4. Company

Yes, there’s screaming but that leads to plenty of company during the night…maybe even a midnight feast or two. Nowadays the humans rarely venture out far – they’re much too tired and the baby pretty much has them under house arrest. They would certainly never be out passed 8 o’clock!!

5. Food

There’s food everywhere. The humans graze all day (and night) and did I mWP_20160210_005ention weaning. This is awesome. It’s literally raining food from the high chair! There’s also lots of new flavours…puréed sweet potato (it’s their first baby!), wet nappies, soiled nappies, dry nappies etc etc. For any self respecting Labrador this is food heaven.

So I guess it’s not all bad. As long as they don’t have another one…….TBC