From 6th April 2016 all puppies must be microchipped before sale. The breeder must register the puppies in their name and provide buyers with the paperwork to transfer the microchip registration.



The good news announced today is that if the puppy is Kennel Club registered then transferring the Petlog registration into the new owners name, and upgrading to Petlog Premium will be FREE!



We have offered a home visit service to breeders for many years to provide litter health checks and microchipping and will hope this will be an even more popular service with the law changes next year. Microchipping and Health Check costs just £15 per puppy (with a small visit fee based on mileage). Our chips are registered with Petlog. Please contact us for further information.



Not doubt you’ve seen headlines like this. No doubt you’ve read the articles which blame vaccines, or dog food, or inbreeding. But is there an epidemic of hypothyroidism, and if so, what is the real cause?


Hypothyroidism is usually seen in middle aged dogs. As the thyroid gland controls the metabolic rate of the whole body a reduction in how well the gland works will have a wide range of symptoms. The most common are weight gain, lethargy, and  poor skin and coat. Recurrent infections, exercise intolerance, cold intolerance, and mental dullness can also be seen. Unfortunately these symptoms are not unique to hypothyroidism and can be seen in other diseases common to middle aged dogs. 

If your vet suspects hypothyroidism she will take a blood sample. The usual first test is to look at free T4 and TSH levels in the blood. A classic hypothyroid case will have low T4 and high TSH. This test is very sensitive and will pick up most hypothyroid cases….but it isn’t very specific and will pick up lots of non hypothyroid cases too. Many illnesses can cause the free T4 levels to be low when sampled, and the level fluctuates through the day. A vet must never diagnose hypothyroidism just on a blood sample, but must consider the whole clinical picture. A few dogs have classic symptoms of hypothyroidism but relatively normal blood values, again the vet must decide whether to trial treatment. Treatment is cheap and safe (it just replaces the missing hormone) so in cases where the blood tests are inconclusive vets will often try a month of treatment.

Additional tests are available including T3, and thyroid antibodies. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone but little circulates in the blood (most is in the cells) and free blood values do not correlate well with clinical signs. Thyroid antibodies make the autoimmune form of thyroid destruction very likely, but a lack of antibodies doesn’t mean thyroid damage hasn’t taken place.


Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disease of dogs, affecting between 2 and 6 dogs per 1000 (so the risk of any dog developing hypothyroidism in it’s life is 0.2-0.6%). Almost 80% of puppies, and nearly 70% of adult dogs receive vaccinations so there is a good chance hypothyroid dogs will also have been vaccinated…but this doesn’t mean that vaccines cause hypothyroidism. Because around 50% of thyroid cases are caused by the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid gland is has been suggested that vaccines trigger the immune system into an attack. To date though no studies have proven that this happens. It has also been suggested that the immune system starts to go wrong after infection, but again a definitive cause and effect has not been shown. Autoimmune diseases seem to be on the rise generally and a theory often discussed is that because of good hygiene, vaccinations, and parasite control the juvenile immune system isn’t correctly primed. One of the few things we do know is that there is a genetic component to hypothyroidism as it has been shown to run in family lines and be more common in some breeds than others. Studies on gender and neutering status suggest neutered females may be at higher risk. There is a feeling amongst vets that hypothyroidism may be on the rise, but increased pet owner and vet awareness, and the increase in ‘wellness’ blood tests for older pets may simply mean we are detecting more cases.


Hypothyroidism is increasingly blamed for aggression in dogs, but again scientific papers really do not back this up. There are a few case reports but in most cases changes in behaviour can be explained by other factors. There is no doubt that hypothyroid dogs feel rubbish and many have skin infections. If the dog is forced out for a walk, away from his warm place, or molested by children he may feel forced to act in an aggressive way. As hypothyroidism usually affects middle aged dogs other health problems may contribute to the feelings of grumpiness or difficulty in coping with their world; arthritis, dental pain, hearing problems, vision problems etc.

Changes in behaviour in middle aged dogs should always prompt a trip to the vet to rule out health problems.

So…is there an epidemic of hypothyroidism? Maybe not. Is there a clear link to vaccination? No. Does hypothyroidism cause aggression? Usually no, but it can make dogs miserable and grumpy. Can a single blood test (even an expensive one from America) tell me if my dog has a thyroid problem? No. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health book a check up with your vet. And remember we’re available to help with acupuncture, herbal medicines, and behaviour assessments!




Fireworks and Thunderstorms


Autumn is a wonderful time of year, but it does mean the risk of firework displays and thunderstorms increases and many pets suffer behavioural problems because of them.


The first thing to understand is that you aren’t going to be able to desensitise your pet to fireworks in time for this year’s displays. In East Sussex there are organised displays most weekends from now until Christmas, then there will be New Year celebrations so we need to think about managing pets’ fear rather than curing it.


Find out when local displays are planned, and ask neighbours to let you know if they are planning to let off fireworks. Stick to your pet’s routine as much as you can, but try and walk dogs before dark, and try to get cats in, and cat flaps locked before dark. Bring small pets’ hutches inside if possible. Close the curtains early, have the lights on, and TV or Radio is a good idea. It is usually best if someone can stay with a pet during displays.


How you deal with your pet during fireworks depends very much on how they usually react. For pet that like to hide away give them opportunities to do that. Simply putting a bed behind the sofa, or a nice comfy box in a quiet corner may be just what they need. If your pet gets comfort from being cuddled then cuddle them! You aren’t rewarding the fear, but don’t force yourself on a pet who would rather hide away as this could add to his distress. Feeding a high carb meal a few hours before fireworks can make dogs drowsy, but don’t feed dogs which tend to get vomiting or diarrhoea when anxious as you don’t want to be letting them out during displays. Some dogs can be distracted by playing games, or working for a really good treat in a puzzle feeder.


There are many products available from vets, pet shops and on-line which claim to help calm pets during stressful events. Pheremone collars, sprays and plug-ins can certainly help but should be started a week or more before you need them. Other products contain herbs, vitamins, minerals, or amino acids which have been shown to calm animals. Some act faster than others so take advice from a pet health professional on which are most suited to your needs.


Hopefully the days of vets dishing out yellow ACP tablets for firework fear are over. There are several drugs which can be used alone or in combination to help with fear of fireworks, but they must be prescribed carefully due to medical and behavioural side effects, and because some (like ACP) can actually make the experience worse for the dog. Don’t leave it until the last minute to book an appointment if you think your pet needs drugs to help him through the firework season.


It is possible to reduce a pet’s reaction to fireworks, but the process is quite slow and could be set back if there was an unexpected display during training so I usually advise desensitisation starts in the spring and summer. I will describe the process for dogs, but it will work for other pets too. The basic idea is to play a recording of firework noise while the dog does something fun- like eating or playing. Start on a very quiet setting, then increase the volume day by day if the dog doesn’t react. Eventually you should be able to start the firework recording at any time or place with minimal reaction (or an expectant look!) from the dog. Of course fireworks also involve flashes which are hard to replicate, and there may be noises from live fireworks which recordings don’t catch, but most dogs become less afraid after a careful desensitisation programme.

Even better is to try and prevent the problem ever occurring by playing firework (and other) noises to puppies before they leave home! When buying a puppy, especially from a breed known to have a high risk of noise sensitivity such as collies, look for a breeder who has played their pups a variety of ‘scary’ noises while they played and ate.


The same management techniques and training strategies can be used for dogs who are afraid of storms. The difficulty comes in the greater unpredictability of when storms will happen which can make avoiding them, or preparing for them harder. There are also changes in atmospheric pressure which a dog may learn is a sign of impending storm. But pheremone treatments have been shown to help even with thunderstorms.

We hope you and your pets enjoy the autumn, and please contact us if you would like help with this or any other behaviour issue. Always seek professional advice before tackling a behaviour problem.







Food is REALLY important to dogs. Left to their own devices most of their waking hours would be spent looking for and eating food, and they would spend the rest of their time sleeping and digesting food. Guarding food from other dogs, other animals, and even people is a natural dog behaviour, a survival tactic even. Unfortunately a very common problem for dog owners is that their dog growls if people approach him while he is eating, and this can escalate to snapping or biting. We need to teach our dogs that they don’t have to guard their food from us.


Snoopy loves mealtimes, he can’t wait for his dinner to come and he’s not planning on sharing! Up until now Snoopy’s people have put his food bowl down and left him to eat in peace but Snoopy’s people have just read that you should be able to take food away from your dog and as their baby is now a free ranging toddler they decide to see how ‘good’ Snoopy’s food manners are. Snoopy’s male owner strides over to the bowl while Snoopy is eating, Snoopy is a bit worried as this is unusual. The male owner reaches down and tries to take Snoopy’s bowl which makes Snoopy gobble his food down really fast, but he’d nearly finished anyway. The next day the male owner puts Snoopy’s food down, leaves the room, then walks back in. Snoopy is worried the male owner will take his food again so he stands over the bowl and gives a little growl. The male owner has read that he should hit Snoopy if he growls so he knows who is in charge so he smacks Snoopy on the nose and takes the food away. This happens most evenings for a few days, even the female owner has started taking his food away. Every time he is fed Snoopy gets more and more worried as his people not only steal his food, they hit him as well. Finally Snoopy is so worried that he growls and growls and when the female owner moves her hand to hit him he snaps at her. She doesn’t move quickly enough and his teeth sink into her hand. Snoopy didn’t mean to bite, just to scare her away from his food…but she’s straight on the phone to the vet, “Enough is enough,” she says, “next time it could be our toddler’s face!”


Luckily when Snoopy’s owner called the vet she was given the number of a COAPE behaviourist who agreed to come out and see Snoopy. They discussed how to keep the toddler safe while Snoopy learnt new food manners and how Snoopy’s owners would change their behaviour at feeding time. Various options were discussed and tried including hand feeding, scatter feeding, and adding tasty treats to the bowl. It took several weeks of patient practice but before long Snoopy began to trust his owners again. He stopped growling and would sit it they approached his bowl in the hope of getting an extra treat. Because food guarding can have serious consequences we aren’t going to tell you exactly how to fix it here. It is safer for a behaviourist using modern, dog fair techniques to visit and assess your dog. Our vet Vicky is a COAPE behaviourist and is happy to help with this as well as other behavioural issues.

(Snoopy isn’t a real case, he’s just an all too typical example!)


Prevention is always better than cure. What if Snoopy’s owners had done things differently when they brought him home?

Snoopy’s owners did lots of research before bringing him home, and they spoke to COAPE behaviourist about how to teach him manners around his food. The behaviourist told them they should use his food ration to help train him instead of using lots of treats. Snoopy’s owners held the bowl and when Snoopy did clever things like sitting, or peeing outside, or coming when they called they would feed him from their hands. Being a puppy Snoopy would occasionally get a bit excited and nip his owners when taking the food. When this happened he wasn’t offered any more until he calmed down; Snoopy soon learned to be gentle with his mouth. After a while Snoopy’s owners needed to use less food for training and Snoopy was allowed to eat by himself from the bowl more often. Sometimes they came over to his bowl and added tasty things like bits of chicken. Now when Snoopy sees people coming towards his bowl he steps back to give them lots of room to add treats.




Meadowsweet (Credit Integrate CPD)

(Credit Integrate CPD)

At this time of year you will see Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmara) growing wild. It tends to grow near ditches and watercourses, throwing up spires of frothy white flowers, but it’s appearance is not the only reason it’s rather marvelous…Meadowsweet was the plant from which aspirin was first developed, and the difference between Meadowsweet and aspiring tells us a lot about how herbal medicine and pharamceutical medicine differ.


It’s true that willow bark (or rather the pithy cortex below the bark) is a source of salicylates- the natural form of aspirin. But salicylic acid was first extracted from Meadowsweet. At the time the latin name for the plant was Spirea ulmaria so the man made version (acetylsalicylic acid) was named in it’s honour; ‘aspirin’ meaning ‘of spirea’!

Knowing that Meadowsweet is a potent source of salicylic acids it won’t surprise you that a traditional and modern use of the herb is to treat arthtitis. Herbalists in the past didn’t know about the chemical properties of plants though…so how did they know to use Meadowsweet for arthritic pain? Historical herbalists often looked at the form of a plant, or where it grew to determine how it could be used. Meadowsweet, bog bean, and willow are all herbs with anti-inflammatory properties native to the UK, and all are found near water. Growing in the damp conditions that seemed to aggravate osteoarthritis and rheumatism meant these plants were selected as treatments. We know know why they were effective!

The other traditional and modern use for Meadowsweet is somewhat more surprising; we most commonly use it where stomach ulceration is suspected.


In developing acetylsalicylic acid scientists enhanced the anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately this new compound also inhibited pathways which protect the stomach so stomach ulceration is a well known side effect of taking aspirin. Taking an extract of Meadowsweet flowers is rather different; as well as the milder plant salicylates there are tannins, flavenoids, and a whole host of other chemicals which give the herb antacid and antiulcerogenic properties. It also has anticoagulant properties.

So, we have a native British ‘weed’ which has a long history of being used to treat arthritis and now we know the chemicals in the plant that give it that property. It has given rise to one of the most widely used pharmaceuticals in the world (and new uses for aspirin are reported regularly) and can be used to treat one of the biggest side effects of the pharmaceutical! Marvelous. (And it smells pretty nice too!)




Zoopharmacognosy is the latest buzz in the complementary treatment of cats and dogs. There are courses in it for pet owners, and some claiming to certify you to offer the service to others. There is also letter in the Vet Times encouraging vets to get involved. So, is this a treatment you should consider with your pets?


Zoopharmacognosy means animals self selecting medicinal plants or minerals to cure themselves of illness. Scientists have observed several animal species using naturally occurring plants or minerals when unwell. The two most commonly cited cases are that of elephants with diarrhoea seeking out a special type of clay to eat and sick chimpanzees eating bitter and mildly toxic leaves to treat parasite infestations. In our domestic animals we see cats and dogs chewing grass; as this often induces vomiting it has been suggested they eat the grass when feeling sick to help remove toxins or parasites from the gut. otherwise evidence for this type of medicine in companion animals is largely anecdotal. Yes, rabbits will often choose dandelion leaves over grass when they have gut stasis, but we can’t know if they are seeking out the gut stimulating bitters in the herb, or whether being offered a favourite food is why they choose it. There is also a story of a worm infested dog choosing an onion over and apple and never touching an onion again; was he really trying to rid himself of worms, or did he make a bad choice and decide onions weren’t tasty? How did he know that the dose of onion he took was safe (as onions are quite toxic to dogs).


This is an important question and hinges on our domestic pets still being able to detect toxic plants from safe plants, and knowing when to take mildly toxic plants and in what doses. The experience of most general practice vets would be that domestic pets aren’t that good at it; we’ve all treated dogs, cats, and small pets which have eaten toxic house or garden plants, unsuitable vegetables, toxic substrates such as cocoa mulch, and garden bulbs. Part of the safety element relies on the therapist only offering safe plants, and then knowing what dose is suitable for the animal. Another element is the form in which herbs are presented; we know that horses won’t ingest toxic ragwort when it is growing (unless they are starving) but readily ingest it in hay. Plants may be safe whole and dried, but their refined essential oils much less safe, especially for cats. Finally herb quality must be considered; not all suppliers check the quality of raw ingredients and there have been cases of contamination and substitution, even in big high street brands!

If zoopharmacognosy is practised then it should only be offered by experienced trained herbalists. The many courses are as yet unregulated making it hard for owners to know what level of understanding a practitioner has. The practitioner needs an in depth knowledge of herbal medicines, animal physiology, and conventional drugs- as many herbs interact with conventional medication. We feel that non-veterinary practitioners should work under the supervision of, and on referral from a vet (as with other valued paraprofessionals such as physios, behaviourists, hydrotherapists and massage therapists). Sadly the Vet Times letter suggests that Zoopharmacognosists don’t have to have veterinary referral (an issue we are clarifying with the RCVS).

In conclusion, whilst we are BIG fans of herbal medicine, and find it effective in a wide range of cases we will continue to recommend that you seek out a diagnosis by a vet, and that any herbal treatments are prescribed by a vet trained in herbal medicine. If you do decide to see a Zoopharmacognosy practitioner ensure your vet is involved in case of any reaction or interactions.


Despite our concerns about this therapy (which is in it’s infancy and may prove useful with more research and safety considerations) there is some fun you can have with self selection at home! Plant a range of tasty treats for your pets to nibble on if the fancy takes them…this is especially useful for indoor cats and rabbits.

Rabbits and guinea pigs: try dandelion, chicory, fennel, mint, and french marigold.

Cats: try valerian, catnip (these two have opposite effects so don’t plant them too close!), lavender, and cat grass (a type of oat).

Dogs: try fennel, mint, parsely, lavender, cat grass, and cleavers (goose grass).



Please be advised that we will be closed for a long overdue holiday from 16th to 26th May.

For non-urgent enquiries text or email and we will deal with your request on 26th May.

For urgent matters please contact your primary care vet.





HERB OF THE DAY: CHAMOMILE (Matricaria recutita)
This is one of our favourite herbs! A European native, a common garden plant, and a common garden escapee. You might think it’s a pretty feeble sort of herb; something people have as a tea when they don’t want the caffeine…but we think it’s something of a wonder herb.


Taken internally chamomile can reduce anxiety, without excess sedation. It is great for calming inflamed guts and reducing flatulence and gut cramps and it may help reduce some skin allergies.

Externally chamomile can soothe irritated skin and be used as an eyewash in mild conjunctivitis.
Like all herbs it’s not totally benign; some people and animals can be allergic to chamomile and it’s relations.

Fun fact: chamomile oil is blue!



The internet is an amazing place…so much information, and so easy to buy anything at the click of a button. But it has it’s dangers.

Imagine your dog is due for worming…you usually get some stuff from the vet but it’s quite expensive and you aren’t heading in to town so you look online. First you find your usual wormer available from an internet pharmacy. You check the pharmacy is properly registered in the UK, and that you don’t need a prescription, and you’re just about to pay when….

You notice an article saying how bad chemical wormers are for pets. You read it and it’s scary stuff! One dog died, another had fits. So now you start looking for a more natural approach…something herbal. There are lots to choose from and they are all quite cheap, come with glowing testimonials and there is no mention of side effects. Great! Let’s order some….

Or maybe your cat has been diagnosed with cancer and the vet says there is nothing that can be done other than supportive care…but a quick internet search reveals several herbal tonics with great reviews…


Before you put in your credit card details have a really good look at the products. The manufacturer should be able to tell you what herbs are in the product, at what strength. They should be talking about amounts of active chemicals, not just how much dry or fresh herb was used as herbs can vary in strength from season to season. Can the producer tell you how they quality check the herbs and where the herbs come from? Many herbs are rare in the wild and must be farmers of collected under strict controls, other herbs look similar to plants which are toxic or have no medicinal actions. Has the product been tested to show it is safe and effective? Beware of simple testimonials; “I use ‘herbal worm prevent’ on my dog and he never has worm!” may be true…but as most worm infestations aren’t obvious without faecal testing can the owner really be sure? For a worming product we would expect to see a study where pets were tested for worm eggs before treatment and split into a control group (no treatment) and a treated group, then tested again. Similar tests can easily be done to show the effectiveness of flea products. Cancer treatments are more difficult for a small herbal company to test and though most will do no harm, they may also do little good. Cancers can be very variable in how they affect pets. Some grow slowly and some grow fast even if you do nothing at all. Many herbs have well known side effects, especially at higher doses- does the company mention these, or any interactions with conventional drugs (there are many!).


We don’t offer miracle cures. We prefer monitoring for parasites and using appropriate doses of licenced products when required. These products can have side effects, but they are uncommon and well known and we take them into account when weighing up which products to use.

We do offer bespoke herbal medicines to support pets with a huge range of medical conditions, but our training means we are well aware of potential side-effects, drug interactions etc. We only buy herbs from manufacturers who follow Good Manufacturing Practice, and source herbs in an ethical and sustainable way.

So….instead of buying a miracle potion….book a consultation with us!



People can be confused by the term ‘holistic’, especially as it seems to be used to sell just about everything. So what does it mean at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care?


Holistic care is characterized by the treatment of the whole animal, taking into account mental and environmental factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

Animals are usually referred for holistic assessment and treatment because they have complex, multiple, or chronic conditions.

We will ask questions about your pet’s diet, exercise, and mood state as well as the main symptoms. All too often a chronic illness means a pet can’t take part in the activities it used to enjoy and a low mood state or poor quality of life can make managing a disease more difficult. We often make changes to what,or how a pet is fed as well as using appropriate games, training and exercise to improve their mood as well as using acupuncture or herbal medicine.

Holistic also means that we use a wider variety of treatments than most primary care practices; we offer herbal medicine, acupuncture, and physical therapy as well as advising on diet, lifestyle, supplements, and behavioural modifications.


A pug was referred to Four Seasons after diagnosis of a degenerative spinal condition. His pain was well controlled but he seemed to have lost all his spark and his owners were considering euthanasia. A detailed discussion revealed that as his mobility was poor the owners were taking this pug out on his own, then taking the other pugs for their usual walks. It seemed that the pug had a low mood state because he was missing out on walks with his friends. The solution was two-fold; herbs with a proven effect on improving mood and perhaps more importantly getting the pug back with his mates. His owners bought a ‘dog pushchair’ so he didn’t have to do the whole walk and let him out to sniff around with the others. In no time at all his cheerful personality was back and an integrated approach from his referring vet and our vet made a huge difference.