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Is your dog overweight? And what could that mean for him?

by Stefano Sobrero on 07/19/20

Obesity is an increasingly serious problem amongst our pets.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that 40 to 50% of all the patients we see in a year can be classed as overweight. Unfortunately a lot of people find it hard to figure out what their animal’s ideal weight should be: it can be difficult to understand how just feeding 5% too much every day can eventually lead to obesity, and all the problems that come with it. Moreover there seems to be poor awareness amongst the public about the implications and consequences of obesity. 

And that is probably what makes it such a common and challenging condition to deal with: the solution requires breaking habits and its seriousness is often underestimated, therefore motivation tends to be low.

I’m writing this post with the purpose of providing some information and help on the matter, hoping that it may be of benefit to you and your hairy, faithful companions.

So first of all…is your dog overweight?

Like I mentioned above, it can be difficult for some to tell.  Personally I believe we’ve become so used to seeing fat animals around us that by now it seems normal to see a 40kg Labrador. 

“40kg is not fat for a Labrador!” you’re probably thinking as you read this

Trust me, there are exceptions, but yeah, generally speaking that dog would be considered overweight by a long shot! 

Like I said, it can be very difficult to decide whether your pet needs to lose weight or not when there are over 100 breeds out there, with very different sizes, body shapes, hair styles, when almost half of them are way beyond their ideal BCS (body condition score) and we don’t even know it.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a standardized method to score our animal’s body condition so we can take appropriate measures without the vet telling us “your dog is fat” and making us feel bad about it?

Of course it would! And this is one of the things we’ll be talking about today.

There are mainly 3 features of your companion’s body you can use to evaluate their BCS:

-      Chest: this is probably the easiest and most reliable way, and for most dogs the only one you actually need. More specifically what you want to evaluate is the rib cage, and there are two ways of doing this. If you’re looking at a short haired dog, in most cases you should be able to see (not imagine) the last 2 ribs. This can be difficult in certain breeds such as British Bulldogs and long or thick haired ones. In that case, an even more reliable way is to run your fingers (without pressing) through your dog’s chest, and feel those ribs. If they feel the same way as your knuckles do when you’re keeping your hand open, then that is fine. If they feel like your knuckles on the palm side of your hand, or if you need to apply pressure in order to feel them at all, then I’m afraid you’ve got an overweight dog. It’s as simple as that, and as long as you’re honest with yourself, you can’t get it that wrong.

-      Back: place your fingers on the skin over your pet’s spine, then start moving them back and forward. You should be able to feel the vertebras under the skin you’re moving. Now, how you feel them can be very much breed related. Whippets have a much thinner skin than Staffies, therefore the feeling will be different. You should however be able to feel the spine. It doesn’t need to be excessively prominent but you shouldn’t need to apply much pressure. An overweight and/or obese dog will have fat pads accumulating along the neck, back and at base of the tail, making it harder to feel those vertebras. Fat can sometimes feel fairly solid and some may think they’re touching muscle. Which brings us to our next and last feature.

-      Waistline: This one is pretty simple. Whether you have a Boxer or a Bulldog, when you look at them from above, you should be able to see their waistline. If your dog’s waist is as wide as their chest, you should seriously start thinking of getting rid of those treats. Treats (which include dental sticks by the way) and table scraps are the most common cause of obesity in our dogs, and eliminating those from their daily intake is the first and probably hardest step you’ll need to take if you want him/her to get healthy again.


So now that we’ve established a way you can monitor you dog’s body condition, there is another question that needs answering before we wrap this up: what are the consequences of excessive weight in our pets?

As for humans, there are quite a few, and some are also pretty severe and expensive to treat. So let’s take a look at some of the most common secondary diseases you CAN prevent by simply avoiding overfeeding your dog:

-      heart disease and circulation problems: fat accumulates everywhere, including the heart! When this happens, the latter will start working at a pace it can’t keep up with without undergoing substantial changes, which can eventually lead to insufficiency. To make this worse, it takes much more effort for an overweight dog to move around than a normal sized one. This means that not only your dog’s heart is inefficient because of its fat accumulation, but the body is also asking for high performance all the time! That is simply not sustainable and once other vital organs start resenting of changes in the normal blood pressure, things start falling apart and they get very complicated to deal with.

-      liver disease: anything we eat reaches the liver, one way or another. This complex organ has multiple functions but to keep it really simple you could see it as a huge filter for our (and our pets) blood. Any nutrients that are absorbed by the intestine and any toxins produced by the body are captured, processed and either used or eliminated by the liver. It is an amazing machine with an amazing regenerating capability but it still has its limits. Like all filters it will start piling up particles (in this case fat) if these exceed its capacity. A chronic accumulation of fat leads eventually to degeneration of the liver’s structure, which will result in malfunction. And liver malfunction means inability to eliminate toxins, which will start to accumulate in other vital organs, such as the brain. And by the time we notice the neurologic signs that come with this, it is usually late.

-      arthritis:our and our pets joints were designed by mother nature to withstand a certain weight. Being constantly exposed to more than they should be baring will cause chronic inflammation which will eventually lead to arthritis. Recent studies have also shown that fat actively releases chemicals which are favorable to the inflammatory process. We unfortunately like to blame age for this disease, but the truth is, unless your dog has some form of malformation, he really shouldn’t be suffering from chronic back or hip pain at the age of 8. I very rarely see a middle age healthy dog with severe arthritis. The ones who have it are usually overweight. And yes, pain killers are a wonderful thing, but all they really do is to cover those symptoms, until they can’t any more…and at that point, again, it’s late!

-      diabetes:of course diabetes can be amongst the obesity related diseases. I won’t get too technical here on why and how diabetes occurs as it would probably cause some confusion which is not the purpose of this article. Let’s just say this condition can have severe consequences on kidneys, brain, eyes, heart and skin. It pretty much messes with the entire body and if untreated it can be fatal. And once it’s there, it’s for life. There is no going back and it can be very expensive to treat! Unfortunately diabetes is also highly under-diagnosed in veterinary medicine as the symptoms can be subtle at the start. This makes the whole prognosis less favorable.


I sincerely hope this article can help you better understand whether your beloved companion needs to lose a few kg or not. 

And I can’t stress this enough: if you’re struggling with it all, we are here for you. We don’t want you to feel lonely in this, we all want what is best for your pets. That is why we’ve been running FREE weight clinics for some time now. Take advantage of what we can offer! 

The best day to start breaking old habits was yesterday, the next best day is today! 

Why does your dog keep getting ear infections?

by Stefano Sobrero on 07/13/20

Ear infections in dogs can be extremely frustrating to deal with. They are considerably painful and stressful, and they tend to have a high recurrence rate.

They also are unfortunately one of the most common reasons people take their dogs to see a vet. If your dog is constantly shaking their head and scratching their ear, if you’re noticing an unusual smell around them as well as maybe a change in their behavior, rest assured you’re not alone. It is quite normal for us, as veterinarians, to come across 2 or 3 ear infection cases a day, and this number tends to increase during the warm season. And although people may be inclined to think that, since it’s such a common disease, its treatment must by now be standardised and straight forward, the truth is a bit more complicated than that.

The term “otitis” is used to address a variety of conditions that may present the same symptoms but are caused by different factors and/or organisms.

Imagine for a moment bringing your pet to your veterinarian because he/she is vomiting: this can be caused by gastritis, foreign bodies, intoxication, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer…and the list goes on. We can easily stop the vomiting as such, temporarily, but if we don’t address the primary problem it’s only a matter of time before not only the symptoms resume, but the whole picture gets worse. 

Same thing goes for ear infections. Blindly prescribing antibiotic drops is far from being a definite solution.

But before we get straight into treatment, let’s take a moment to reflect on what actually causes this disease, so we can better understand why certain steps may be recommended and why they can be more important than we tend to think.

There are 4 factors that may be playing a role in the manifestation of an otitis, and the latter is often the result of at least 2 of them. Treating for one of these factors, without considering the others often leads to recurrence after recurrence. And the more it keeps happening, the harder it gets to treat, that is a pretty solid rule in medicine.

So here is what comes in play when your dog starts presenting symptoms of otitis.

  • Predisposing factors: these won’t cause the infection on their own but will dramatically increase the risk of it happening. Such factors may include anatomical features of the ear, excessive humidity, obstructions (polyps, tumors, cysts…) and other structural changes to the ear canal.
  • Primary factors: they’re the only ones that may cause an ear infection on their own, although this isn’t usually the case. Such factors include parasites (usually mites), allergies, foreign bodies such as grass seeds or sand, immune mediated diseases, metabolic diseases and alterations of the ceruminous glands (glands which produce ear wax).
  • Secondary factors: typically bacteria or yeasts that can be found in a normal ear which can cause otitis if the tissue structure in the ear is altered by a predisposing or primary factor. They are fairly easy to highlight through some basic microscopy but they are NEVER the only cause of infection. 
  • Perpetuating factors: these are progressive alterations of the ear, which are usually found when the infection becomes chronic. They will not only worsen the infection itself but also prevent it from resolving despite treatment. If not dealt with promptly, they can eventually lead to what we call “end stage otitis”, which is that point of no return where the only curative approach is the surgical one. The most common perpetuating factor we see in general practice is that wet, brown, smelly discharge you’ll typically find (and smell) in your dog’s bad ear. It is the main reason we often recommend a thorough cleaning before applying any form of treatment. Another more advanced one is what we call stenosis, which is swelling of the soft tissues inside the ear due to their chronic inflammation. A stenotic ear will “trap” all of that discharge, bacteria and yeasts in the deeper part of the canal, making it virtually impossible to clean and treat appropriately, unless that swelling is reduced, if possible.

So going back to our headline: why does your dog keep getting ear infections? By now you can probably see how a superficial clean and antibiotic drops are only going to address secondary and perhaps perpetuating factors (if done correctly), leaving your dog still exposed to predisposing and primary ones, hence the high chance of recurrence. 

Now don’t get me wrong, secondary and perpetuating factors ARE the first ones that should be approached, after all our aim is initially to give relief as quickly as possible and to stop the spreading of the infection. But most of the times to succeed in controlling the symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean succeeding in treating the disease. 

Some of the most common primary causes for otitis are skin allergies, which interestingly often manifest themselves only in specific parts of our dog’s body, such as front feet and ears! These are often under-diagnosed, especially when the symptoms of a secondary infection are way more obvious. 

On the other hand, two of the most common predisposing factors are excessive humidity and the anatomical conformation of the ear. 

You can see how once the cleaner and drops have done their job (if they have at all), the problem is far from resolved, all of these factors are still there. If your dog was allergic to grass, he still is allergic to grass. If his ear was excessively humid and he keeps swimming every day, it will keep being excessively humid.

So I guess we now have all the elements we need to wrap this up.

Why does your dog keep getting ear infections? Because there often is no follow up once the symptoms are controlled. It feels unnecessary to investigate underlying skin conditions. It feels cruel to stop our faithful companion from diving into the sea and enjoy life. Yet the only way we can break this infection – treatment – recurrence pattern is to address all aspects of this frustrating problem.

And I know it often feels like a rip off, especially if your “Charlie” is feeling much better now! But unfortunately medicine is all but simple and straight forward, and believe me when I say that all we, as vets, really want for your dog is for him to heal once and for all. And that every step we recommend is to serve that one purpose: to take care of your hairy loved ones :)

How COVID-19 has changed the way we work

by Stefano Sobrero on 07/13/20

The COVID-19 outbreak has been the greatest global disaster in the last few decades by a long shot. It has affected every single country in the world.

Many have lost loved ones and jobs, dreams and plans for the future were scrapped, and at some point even hope and belief seemed hard to hang on to.

The last few months have probably been the toughest ones in many of people’s lives, and although we are beginning to see some light at the end of this tunnel, the threat of a second wave is all but gone. 

If on one hand some might believe our NHS would be more prepared than it was when it all first started, on the other it would be hard to imagine how global economy would survive another period of lockdown when it’s already been brought to its knees.

And if it is true that restrictions are being eased with caution and scientific evidence, it is also true that it’s up to each one of us to play our part in reducing that risk as much as possible.

Whilst we, as a Veterinary Practice, have never stopped working at the best of our ability to provide care for our beloved fluffy patients, our main priority is and has always been to safeguard public health. 

And that is why we had to make substantial changes to our working hours, the services we provide, our rates and our team structure. We understand our new way of working may not feel as warm and welcoming as it used to be, but we really hope you understand these are unprecedented times and these measures are aimed at keeping not only our staff, but you and your loved ones safe.

The following is a list of the changes we had to make in order to keep providing animal health care:


-      Two separate teams are operating and swapping every 2 days. 

If one staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the whole team would have to isolate for at least 2 weeks.

By having 2 separate teams we insure that there’s always going to be someone available to see your pets.

A deep cleaning of the whole practice is done every 48 hours in order to minimize the risk of cross contagion.

-      We are open from 8.30AM to 5PM, 7 days a week, including bank holidays. Our last available appointment is at 4.20PM

This gives us reasonable time for an appropriate sanitation of the practice on a daily basis whilst working with a reduced staff. We understand that these hours may be inconvenient for some, especially during working days, and that is why we have decided to stay open on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays as well.

-      We cannot allow clients to enter the premises.

We know how upsetting it can be to see your pet being taken into the practice whilst you’re waiting outside. As mentioned above, all of these measures have the sole intent of keeping everyone (including you) safe so we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.

On our behalf we can assure you that every consultation will be conducted by one of our vets veterinarian and a very caring nurse in order to maintain high standards in each clinical visit and procedure. 

Please make sure you bring your mobile phone with you so we can communicate efficiently whilst your pet is being examined.

-      We cannot conduct house visits.  

Again this is in line with the social distancing advice we received from the government and the Royal College. We are aware that the current regulations do allow for members of two different households to meet, however as we do provide a 24/7 service (between working hours and out of hours) we need to be extra cautious, and conducting house visits would unnecessarily increase the risk of us being unable to maintain this service. 

Exceptional circumstances will be considered individually, where animal welfare is a real concern and if there is no way you can bring your pet to our practice. In those cases special precautions will be taken so there is no contact between you and the staff members who will be conducting the visit. Please note this is NOT a routine service and it will be provided only in very specific cases.

-      If your pets are more than 3 months overdue their vaccination because of lockdown, we offer a restart for the price of a normal booster.

We though we’d save the good news for last! 

You shouldn’t be paying the price for being sensible and following the rules, so if your fluffy friend falls under this category, rest assured we will cover the cost for the 2ndinjection he will need after his regular booster, in order to guarantee appropriate immune protection. 


We hope this article can shine some light on what is happening behind our scenes and why.

As usual our staff members are here to answer any question you may have so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

We’d also like to thank all of our clients, we’ve received priceless support from you during these very challenging times and we are ever so grateful!

Stay safe everyone, and take care of your loved ones, both fluffy and not!