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Could your dog be a life saver?

As one of the nurses working at Milton Keynes Veterinary Groups main hospital, I am excited to be working with Pet Blood Bank UK to register the hospital and hold dog blood donor sessions.
Pet Blood Bank UK is a non-profitable charity which provides a national canine blood bank. Just like people, sick dogs sometimes require blood transfusions, with one single donation saving the lives of up to four dogs. My own dog, Westwood (pictured above) was a donor for Pet Blood Bank UK and donated several times. Unfortunately, as he is now receiving immunotherapy injections, he is no longer able to donate. In order to hold sessions at the practice, we must provide Pet Blood Bank UK with a list of 50 possible dog donors. Pet Blood Bank UK will then contact owners directly to arrange appointments. Dogs can donate up to four times a year.

To be a donor, you dog needs to be:
  • Fit and healthy
  • Between 1-8 years of age (extra-large breeds need to be slightly older before they can donate)
  • Weigh more than 25kg
  • Have a good temperament
  • Have never travelled abroad
  • Vaccinated
  • Not on any medications (there are a few exceptions)
There are certain dog breeds that frequently have a Negative blood type and there is a higher demand for these donors. For this reason we are encouraging the breeds below:
  • Airedales
  • American bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Dobermans
  • English bull terriers
  • Flat coat retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Greyhounds
  • Lurchers
  • Mastiffs
  • English pointers
  • Weimeraners

The comfort and health of our donors is very important to us and Pet Blood Bank UK. All dogs will be weighed and undergo a physical examination by a Pet Blood Bank UK veterinary surgeon each time they donate. Dogs will also be microchipped if they are not already. A small blood sample is obtained to check your pet is healthy, determine their blood type, and to ensure they are not showing any signs of dehydration or anaemia before their donation.
If all is well then 450mls blood is collected. Dogs are gently restrained on their side, and blood is taken from the jugular vein in the neck. The actual donation only takes 5-10 minutes, although you should allow around 40 minutes in total for your appointment. A light dressing will be applied to your dogs neck after donation and their pulse is checked.
Dogs are then given lots of praise and cuddles, followed by a well-deserved drink and bowl of food, and a doggie bag of treats to take home. You will be asked to sit with your dog for a short period of time prior to them having a final check before they are sent home to take it easy for the rest of the day.

For more information, or if you are interested in registering your pet becoming a blood donor, please contact the surgery on 01908 397777 and ask to speak to Jess.

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A day in the life of a veterinary nurse

Firstly, it is imperative to point out that no two days at work are the same for a Veterinary Nurse. A day as an operating nurse at our Walnut Tree hospital starts early in the morning, when we come in and start the day with the most crucial job of all. Putting the kettle on! That being done we start to prepare the operating theatres where our patients will be undergoing surgical procedures that day, ensuring that everything is prepared and safe. The oxygen and nitrous oxide levels will be checked, specialist dental suit prepared and the laboratory machines tested. At this time our patients who will be staying with us for the day begin arriving, and we begin the admission process. This typically involves speaking with the owners, running through what will be happening during the day including any risks or concerns and then finally signing the consent form. We often spend time asking about your pets recent behaviour or any medical problems they have been experiencing, and trying our best to re-assure you that they are in safe hands.


We will take your pet through to our prep room, take a weight for them and often take a blood sample for pre-operative blood tests or place an intravenous cannula. The blood sample will be run by our in-house machines (also operated by a registered veterinary nurse) and the results shown to a Veterinary Surgeon. Your pet will be settled and made comfortable in either our dedicated canine or feline ward whilst the Vet Nurse calculates and draws up the most suitable Pre-med that the vet has chosen. This usually consists of an anti-anxiety drug and a pain relief combined so that your pet is feeling calm whilst with us and the pain relief has time to work before anything begins. The surgery and prep area is then set up with appropriate anaesthetic equipment, which is all safety checked by our nurses. The nurse and vet who will be working together will discuss your pets specific case before they begin and then change into their surgical scrubs.


The patient will then come through into the prep area where they are anaesthetised for surgery. The nurse will assist the vet by holding the patient, raising a vein if needed and keeping your pet calm and reassured through this experience. Once the anaesthetic begins the nurse is responsible for monitoring the vital signs which include: heart rate, pulse rate and quality, respiratory rate and effort, mucous membrane colour, capillary refill time, body temperature and depth of anaesthesia. This information is related to the veterinary surgeon throughout the surgery. The final stage or preparing the surgical patient is to clip and surgically prepare the skin surface. This involves using a special solution containing Chlorhexidine and a concentrated surgical spirit to ensure the area is sterile before surgery begins. The nurse will connect the patient to a specialised anaesthetic monitor in theatre which will display: an ECG of the patients heart, the level of oxygen in the blood, a graphical display of each breath the patient takes, how much oxygen they take in and how much carbon dioxide they breathe out. Combining this with the information the nurse can get from checking the patients vital signs (discussed above) is the safest way of monitoring anaesthesia.


Once the surgery is completed a nurse will recover that patient from anaesthesia, again monitoring all vital signs and alerting a Vet to any potential problems. The monitoring continues until they are back on their feet. Temperature, consciousness level, pulses, respiration and the condition of the wound are recorded and acted on. Once your pet is recovered a nurse will call you to arrange a time for them to come home. The surgical team will typically go through this multiple times in a day (cleaning the theatre between each patient), until all of the operations are completed. The surgical theatres are then thoroughly cleaned, the surgical instruments are cleaned and packaged ready to go through an auto-clave (for sterilisation) and the prep room cleaned down. When an owner arrives to collect their pet, a nurse will go through all of the post-operative care in detail. Any questions concerning the aftercare are answered and the patient is returned to the owner. Each day as a Veterinary Nurse is different, no two pets are the same and each one of our patients is treated as an individual.

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Adders – What is the risk to my dog?

Identification: Most adders are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the spine and an inverted ‘V’ shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey with a black zigzag. Females are pale brown with a darker brown zigzag. Adders are ‘viviparous’ – they give birth to live young.

The Adder (Vipera berus) is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or stepped on. No one has died from an adder bite in Britain for over 35 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects in humans are nausea and drowsiness, followed by swelling and bruising in the area of the bite.

What is the risk to my dog?

The adder is a timid and non-aggressive snake, and will only bite when provoked. They hibernate over the winter and emerge in early spring as the temperature increases.

Unfortunately dogs are the animals most likely to be bitten due to their natural curiosity. But adder bites are rarely fatal in dogs.

The severity of the clinical signs varies and depends upon the location of the bite (facial bites are more serious), the size of the patient (small dogs are more likely to be seriously affected), the amount the dog moves after the bite (movement increases venom uptake).

The most common signs are significant swelling at the site of the bite, with systemic signs of depression and lethargy.

  • Less than 5% of patients display more severe signs
  • 96-97% make a full recovery, usually within five days

If your dog is bitten by an adder you should seek prompt veterinary attention. Do not attempt first aid measures such as applying a tourniquet- This is ineffective and can cause further harm to your pet. Carry your dog (rather than allow him to walk) to try and reduce the spread of venom around his body.

  • Keep to the paths – snakes tend to live in the undergrowth
  • Use a short lead if walking in an area where adders might be present – this will also protect the young of ground-nesting birds
  • If you encounter an adder – leave it alone and give it the opportunity to escape to safety

Adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is an offence to kill, harm or injure them, and to sell or trade them in any way.

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Pet Obesity – So what’s the issue?

Pet obesity is a pressing issue for the UK’s 24.5 million pets. It is estimated that 45% (just over 11 million) of domestic pets are overweight or clinically obese. A recent study of pet owner perception showed that 63% of pet owners believed their pet to be the correct weight, despite other views from veterinary professionals. This is not surprising as weight gain happens over a long period of time and as the owner sees their pet every day, quite often the drastic change in weight goes unnoticed.

The causes and contributing factors leading to obesity are:

1. Eating too much and excessive snacking
2. Exercising too little
3. Being less active with age
4. Breed Disposition
5. Neutering
6. Certain medical conditions

Just as with people, an overweight or obese animal has a much greater risk of developing serious and/or debilitating health conditions.

Major health risks and concerns include:
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Urinary crystals/stones and blockages
  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Cruciate Ligament Disease
  • Skin/coat issues
  • Decreased Life Expectancy of 2.5 years on average

Our pets are part of the family, of this there is no doubt, and it’s easy to want to express affection for a much-loved pet by rewarding them with tasty treats. Recent findings show that nearly half (48%) of pet owners are treating pets more than twice a day. Over the last five years there has been a 28% increase in cat and dog owners feeding pets table leftovers. These acts of apparent kindness can put your pets at risk; treating with leftover food is a leading cause of pet weight gain (approximately 78% for dogs).
It is important to note that animals have very different metabolisms to ourselves; feeding a dog the size of a West Highland White Terrier just 1 small cube of cheese a day is the same as a human eating 1 Big Mac! Equally, feeding a 5kg cat 1 glass of milk a day is the same as a adult human eating 3 Big Macs in one sitting!

What you can do to keep your pet trim

1. Don’t guess: Follow packet feeding guidelines to determine how much food your pet should be getting daily. If you are unsure, then contact the food manufacturer directly or contact your veterinary practice.

2. Remember! Guidelines are just that, quite often we find that feeding amounts and exercise regimes need tweaking from pet to pet.

3. Weigh the food: Use scales to accurately weigh out your pets daily allowance of food; you can then separate this amount into the number of meals your pet needs per day.

4. Treat responsibly: Prepared treats are best aligned to you pets needs. Please remember that a treat should be earned and the calories must be deducted from your pets overall daily allowance.

5. Don’t overfeed: Be aware of how much you are feeding your pet as a family. In a busy household, it can be beneficial to run a rota system or have a check list so your pet is not being fed the same meal twice.

6. Exercise, exercise, exercise: Make sure you are exercising your pet in accordance with its needs. Most dogs should have at least 1 hour of exercise per day; just because you have a small breed of dog, does not mean it doesn’t need to be walked.

Cats should ideally have 40 minutes of high intensity activity per day. Please remember that cats are predators, and the way to get them to play is to let them use their hunting talents. Take a laser pointer and skitter it across the floor like a bug. Get a wand toy that looks like a bird and pretend to land and take off. In the wild, a cat will only stalk prey for about three to five minutes; after that, he’ll give up and go search somewhere else. So don’t try to play longer than the genetic capacity of the cat. When he’s beginning to lose interest, change to another game or let him rest.
Pet rabbits need 4 hours of exercise per day, therefore rabbits that live outside require constant access to a large run in order to run, jump and play.

7. Monitor your pets weight: This will help you nip any worrying weight gain in the bud. You can weigh your pet at home, if they are small enough to fit on human scales, or if your morning walk brings you and your dog past your veterinary surgery, just nip in and use the scales in reception.

I’ve got an overweight pet, HELP!

Here at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, we offer free of charge nutrition clinics which are run by two of our RVN’s; Louise and Laura both have keen interests in pet nutrition and consult every Wednesday and Friday at our Walnut Tree Hospital site.

In the clinics the patient typically gets a full physical exam; they get weighed, measured and their Body Condition Score is assessed. A full history is also taken from the owner at the first appointment so a better understanding of the pet and owners’ lifestyle can be gained and an individual feeding and exercise plan that fits in with that lifestyle can be designed. The patients are typically seen back at the clinic every 4-6 weeks until they reach their healthy weight.

The nurses cater for most animals and in clinic we routinely see dogs, cats and rabbits of various breeds, shapes and sizes and sometimes the odd guinea pig or 2.

Louise says, I enjoy the owner and pet interaction and I feel that I get to know the pets and their owners very well as we see each other monthly for at least 6 months to a year. The most rewarding aspect of the clinics is seeing a pet become healthier and happier due to reaching its target weight and knowing that they will be living a longer life in their loving home.

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Homemade Pet Treats

Dannielle shares her favourite recipes.

The Necessary Bit

These recipes have no added salt or sugar or any ingredients that your dog should not safely be given. Please do bear in mind that if your dog has a sensitivity or intolerance, some of these recipes may not be appropriate. (For a Gluten free option replace flour below with coconut flour this will alter the consistency of the dough and may make using cookie cutters more difficult but is 100% gluten free.)

As there are no preservatives added to these recipes they are prone to develop mould however can be kept safely in a fridge for up to one week or frozen.

The Science/Vet Bit

*Recent studies suggest that approximately 40% of pets are overweight; obesity is now the most common medical disorder of companion animals and a major welfare concern. It is now recognised that obesity is an important medical disease as it may predispose pets to a variety of other disorders including osteoarthritis, cardiorespiratory problems (the body’s ability to supply oxygen to muscles), diabetes mellitus, constipation, dermatitis, anaesthetic risk and reduced life expectancy.

The Fun Bit

CAUTION – When baking any homemade treats for your dogs it is important to remember that a dog’s sense of smell is massively better than ours (no science/vet bit here!) so to leave cookies cooling unattended is just asking for trouble!

Let’s not be taking our obese dogs to MK Vet Group as a result of a regular over indulgence of treats – these are supposed to be given in moderation.

Liver Cake- Ideal Training Treat

250g liver

250g plain flour

2 eggs



Pre heat oven to 180°c, Gas Mark 4

In a blender, puree the liver and eggs.

Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the liver mixture. Add sufficient milk to make a ‘spongy’ texture. Pour into a baking tray lined with foil and cook for 50-60 minutes. Turn out when cold and cut into small cubes for great training treats.

Can be frozen in small bags to thaw as needed.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Cookies

260g Wholemeal flour

70g Corn Flour

1 medium sweet potato, peeled

1 Large carrot scrubbed

70g Sunflower hearts (if desired)

150ml water

3 tblsp olive oil


Pre heat oven to 180°c, Gas Mark 4

Cover a baking tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flours. In a food processor finely chop the carrot and potato, add to the flours and stir well. Add the sunflower hearts (if using), oil and water and combine into one ball of dough. Add more water if needed.

Turn out onto a floured surface (cling film over the work top is less messy) and knead until well combined and smooth. Roll out to ½” thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place onto baking tray and bake for about 30 mins.

Turn each biscuit once and cook for a further 10 mins then place onto a wire tray to cool.

Cheesy Cookies

60g Wholemeal flour

100g Oats

100g grated cheese (preferably cheddar)

40g grated parmesan (if desired)

1 tblsp Olive oil

100 – 150ml water


Pre heat oven to 180°c, Gas Mark 4

Cover a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all of the ingredients except the oil and water together in a large bowl. Add the oil and stir. Add sufficient water to make the dough stick into one ball. Place onto a floured (cling film is less messy) and roll out gently until ¼” – ½” thick.

Cut with a cookie cutter and place onto baking tray. Cook in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until they start to turn slightly golden brown.

Store in an airtight container and they may keep for weeks.

Christmas Apple and Cinnamon Cookies

4 cups of whole wheat flour (as well as a handful or two of some white flour which will not be added to the actual dough, but used for non-stick purposes).

70g of corn flour

1 egg

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 small apple

350ml water


Pre heat oven to 160°c, Gas Mark 4

Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl, mix with a spoon, and set aside. Grate the apple and then add water, vegetable oil and egg. Stir well. Add the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Stir well until the mixture becomes a thick dough.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface; roll out gently until ¼” to ½” thick. Cut with a Christmas themed cookie cutter and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

These treats do not rise or expand during baking, so they can be placed fairly close together. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 mins, then place onto a wire tray to cool.

Festive Gingerbread Cookies

420 g Whole Wheat Flour

½ tsp ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

55 ml vegetable oil

170g molasses

100ml water


Preheat oven to 160°, Gas Mark 4

Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon and ginger, mix in the oil, molasses and water then let it rest for 15 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until ¼” thick. Cut out the cookies in Christmas themed cookie cutters and place onto the baking sheet. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until firm.

Yummy Cat Treats

195g wheat or white flour

1 ½ tsp Teaspoons catnip

40g powdered lactose free milk

120ml Lactose free milk

2 tbsp Lactose free butter, softened

1 tbsp honey

1 Egg


Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix in wet ingredients to form a soft dough. You can add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Turn out dough onto a non-stick baking sheet and roll out.

Carefully cut the dough into bite-sized squares. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove treats from the tray, making sure to break them apart if necessary; let them cool on a wire tray. Store in an air-tight container or freeze and thaw as needed.

Apples are a source of dietary fibre which helps to eliminate toxins as well as containing minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Also contained are beneficial antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C. A healthy dose of omega 3 and omega 6 in these treats contributes to a healthy skin and coat for your happy hound!

Wholemeal Flour is generally used because it is easier to digest for dogs than white flour and contains a natural pre-biotic which promotes healthy digestion. It also contains selenium – which may help protect against lung cancer – as well as potassium and zinc.

Ginger is fantastically healthy for a dog’s digestive system: relieving stomach aches, nausea, wind and diarrhoea. It also reduces the risk of travel sickness for those dog’s who struggle with car journeys.

Pumpkin is one of the most healthy foods a dog can eat. Packed with crucial minerals and vitamins, especially vitamins A, C and E. Pumpkin helps to maintain your dog’s coat, skin and eyes and it strengthens the immune system as a whole. It’s a fantastic addition to your dog’s diet!

Ground Flax Seed helps to fight against dry, flaky skin in dogs. It is also full of fibre, antioxidants and is another fantastic source of Omega 3 for your happy hound!

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