The worsening Covid-19 situation makes it impossible for us to take on any new clients for home visits for acupuncture, behaviour consultations, or holistic consultations.

Our Vet Vicky Payne has taken on extra hours at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne to help ease the pressure that splitting the team in two is causing . Emails, texts, and messages will only be dealt with on Thursdays and Fridays.

We will continue to provide support for existing clients, and may be able to offer assistance by telephone in some cases.

Thank you for your patience.



Christmas is one of the rare times when there is enough time for a busy veterinary herbalist and behaviourist to sit down and watch a film. And one of my favourites is ‘Fred Claus’. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the whole film, but it all comes down to whether Fred deems the children ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’. Fred realises that the ‘naughty’ children aren’t naughty at all… they are scared, lonely, bullied, acting up because of their circumstances. And I feel the same about dogs.


When assessing a dog with a problem behaviour I have a lot of questions.

Where was he born? How was he brought up? Fred in the movie feels overshadowed by his saintly older brother. Puppies don’t come as blank slates, their behaviour can be influenced by their breed, their parents’ temperament, and their early life experiences. Sometimes people just expect too much; a retriever puppy is going to retriever, just like a four year old kid is going to sit up watching for Santa.

Could he have a medical problem? Over 70% of dogs at a top behaviour center have pain making their behaviour worse! Arthritis, gut problems, ear infections, sight issues are amongst the things I will be ruling out. Sometimes if we fix the health problem, the behaviour returns to normal.

What’s going on at home? In the film, poor Slam ends up at the top of the naughty list for fighting in the children’s home. But poor kid, he doesn’t have the love and structure he needs. The same goes for dogs, many have struggled to cope with the changes that Covid-19 has brought to their lives, and have had added stress at times like fireworks season and Christmas. A stable routine and a safe space to retire to when it all gets too much could be just what your dog needs.


Does the film have a happy ending? Of course. Everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas and Slam gets his Christmas wish (a puppy! I know, don’t get me started on that one). So how do we make sure the ‘problem dogs’ get a fairytail ending?

Choose the right dog: explore your chosen breed or types history, exercise requirements, temperament, and grooming needs. Gundogs are going to retrieve everything, terriers like to rip stuff up, toy dogs want human company, ‘doodles’ need professional grooming every 6 weeks…

Choose the right breeder or rescue: expect to be asked a lot of questions and don’t be upset if it is decided you aren’t right for a particular dog or puppy. Never be rushed into a decision and make sure you have support after you take your new friend home.

Train! Your new dog needs to have clear rules from day 1 and you need to teach him what’s allowed and when. There are many great trainers offering on-line courses when physical courses aren’t possible. Training is not a 6weeks and done thing, it is an everyday all of life thing, and it should be great fun!

Vets: your dogs should visit the vets once or twice a year for a health check even if he is well. Catching health problems early reduces the chance of problem behaviours starting.

Never forget your dog is a dog. It can be hard to be a dog in a human world, so if they are heading for your ‘naughty list’ take a step back and you might just find they need a bit of understanding.

That’s Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care signing off for 2020. We’ll be back on 5th January ready for whatever challenged 2021 brings. But first, A Muppet Christmas Carol, mulled wine, and a mince pie!

May your Christmas be safe and peaceful.



This is a story about me, my dog, and the first rule of recall.

We went to the beach, me and my five dogs. The beach at low tide is fun time. There is no real training, there are very few rules. The dogs can run, play, swim. They need to come back when I ask so that they don’t scare kids, annoy dogs on leads, or chase sea gulls.

When the senior dog chose scavenging on the stone instead of paddling I was cool with that, we could see each other and the beach was pretty empty. As we approached a busier but of beach I called him, he looked at me, then chose to keep mooching up the beach. I called again, and whistled. He moved away. I tried a stop whistle…he moved further away. He looked concerned. I ran up the beach, not to chase him but to try and cut him off. He looked very worried. I am now calling him like some demented banshee, not an experienced dog trainer and behaviourist. I wave the treat bag…nothing.

I now tell him to “go and love himself” (or word to that effect!) and head off down the beach to give the rest of the crew some snacks. This has the desired effect and down comes senior spaniel in that crabby posture that means ‘don’t beat me’. He doesn’t get beaten, but all spaniels know this pose.

I am fuming. This is not the relaxed beach walk I wanted and my reliable old boy is being an idiot. So what do I do? I take a deep breath and do ‘The First Rule of Recall’ I pop him on the lead and I tell him he’s a good boy, and he gets some treats. We walk a while with him on the lead, then do some short freedom and recall and reward practises. But what went wrong?


I can guess what happened. Senior dog has been allowed to run free on walks with my other half. Sometimes he goes on a spaniel mission and chases a duck, eats some bits a hawk has left behind. Sometimes he doesn’t listen when he’s called. After all, why would he come back? Mr Owner doesn’t have a ball, doesn’t have treats, puts him on the lead and takes him home. Senior dog is having a much better time making his own games with the ducks and his own snacks of bits of dead rabbit. Senior spaniel can hear Mr Owner getting cross (Mr Owner is going to be late for work now) and eventually he goes back. Mr Owner tells senior spaniel off and route marches him home. Fun? No.

What has senior spaniel learned? To avoid going back because it ends the fun and gets you shouted at.


The First Rule of Recall

No matter how cross you are, how later you are, how embarrassed you are, when your dog comes back pop their lead on and then reward them. If they have ignored multiple recall cues, this can be low key. A ‘good boy’ and a low value treat. But NEVER punish them. If you shout, or worse, you are only punishing your dog for coming back. He can’t understand you are punishing him for ignoring you. Punishing the dog when he is back with you makes a good recall next time LESS likely.

As you walk along with your ‘naughty’ dog on his lead, think about why this happened.

Have you regularly made coming back more rewarding than not coming back? If you only call your dog up to stop him saying hello to another dog, leaping into a stinky bog, or to go home… you are the fun police. Spice up the recall reward, even with older dogs. Sometimes recall for a game, sometimes for a treat, sometimes for a bit of lead walking before getting let off to run again. Try to recall your dog before they are self rewarding with a game of chase the squirrel and make sure what you have on offer is just as much fun. Occasionally add a jackpot recall reward like a big juicy sausage! Think about adding a clear cue such as a whistle that can never sounds cross and will carry a long way.


The rest of our walk was better. Senior dog got fishy snacks for staying with me and Mr Owner will be given some rules on what to do when he walks senior dog! Training is never over…


If your dog has a recall problem there are lots of exercises that can help improve things. We offer one-to-one training sessions for minor training issues like this (but places are limited in the winter months) at £50 for 45minutes in our field. Please email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for information and booking.


The return to lockdown means that all the bookings Vet Vicky had to work and compete her dogs have been cancelled until at least December. This means our diary is suddenly a bit empty.

We are not as restricted in the services we can offer during this lockdown so we would love to see some new patients for acupuncture, behavioural assessment, and holistic consultations. We are happy to offer phone or WhatsApp consultations for some behavioural issues, holistic consultations, and puppy support.

Email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for information.

Use us or lose us!



Urgh, it’s that time of year again. Firework petition season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have serious reservations about people with no pyrotechnical training being able to buy industrial fireworks to let off in their backyard, but I think the focus of pet owner’s energy is in the wrong place.

I fully support calls for fireworks to be restricted to organised displays. The event can be advertised in advance, animal owners (and those with babies, PTSD, or who just hate fireworks) can make arrangements, and let’s be honest the displays are just a whole lot better and safer. But this still leaves a problem; what to do with the pets who are scared of fireworks.


It might seem tardy to post this after Bonfire Night…but 5th November is just the start of the fireworks season (unless you live in East Sussex where we have a big display somewhere every weekend from September to December in normal years!). Fireworks are an important part of Diwali, Christmas, and New Year events. And this year, with organised displays likely to be banned, there will be more unpredictable home displays.


Walk dogs in the daylight and get cast indoors before dusk. Move outdoor caged pets inside.

Use curtains to muffle sounds and light and keep indoors well lit.

Mask noises with music or the TV.

Make your pet a secure snuggly den to hide in.

If your pet wants to snuggle up for a cuddle, let them. If they need to roam the house, let them do that instead.

Distract your pet with a game, tasty treats, or some training.

Contact your vet for calming pheremones, supplements, or medications.


This is where I get frustrated. Every November there are hundreds of posts about pets being scared of fireworks. Yet how many of these pets get help from a behaviourist? I have only worked with one noise phobia case this year (he’s doing really well with a combination of more interesting walks, medication when required, and a new surround sound TV!). Whilst I don’t promise your dog will react like my spaniels (bang = where is the thing to fetch) it is possible to reduce the fear felt by most dogs through counter conditioning and desensitisation, and to come up with medication protocols for those who remain distressed.


Look for a breeder who habituates their puppies or kittens to noise from an early age. I play my puppies CDs of fireworks, gunshot, traffic, babies….everything! This continues most days until they are at least 6 months old. I often play noises when they are eating or doing some training. As my pups get older I play the noise CDs less often, but often enough that they stay unconcerned. If they show any anxiety the volume goes down and I pair the noise with play or food. If a bang means sausage is coming it is much harder to stay worried about bangs!

Due to Covid-19 restrictions cancelling all our planned gundog work for November we now have extra appointments available. We are happy to do phone and WhatsApp consultations for noise phobias now which can be followed up with home visits next year.

Contact us at health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for a referral form and prices.




Most pet owners can notice obvious signs that their pet is in pain. These include limping, difficulty getting up after rest, and stiffness. Some animals may moan or yelp too.


Many pets hide their pain really well. Less obvious signs of pain include withdrawing from the family, changes in appetite and drinking, licking at joints, reluctance to jump, sleeping in different places, an anxious facial expression, behaviour changes including aggression, house soiling, and the vet’s favourite…just slowing down.


Your vet should do a very careful physical examination. This may start with watching your pet walk in straight lines, in circles, and maybe over obstacles. It can be very useful if you are able to video your pet at home to show how they jump (or don’t!) and move. This is especially useful for cats who often won’t move at the vet clinic!

Next your vet will feel all over your pet’s body and move all the joints. They may ask for dogs to be muzzled as the examination can be painful.

In some cases imaging of joints may be recommended, but in other cases a presumptive diagnosis will be made and treatment started.



Don’t be afraid of medications! Modern non-steroidal drugs have minimal side-effects and can be used safely for long periods of time. They may be required for a short period of time if your pet has an injury, or longer with chronic conditions like arthritis. Regular blood tests are recommended with most medications to monitor your pet’s health. Do not use human medications as many are toxic to pets.


Joint supplements are very popular. Few have shown any significant benefit in clinical trials, but most are unlikely to do any harm. Green lipped mussel is better supported by studies than other ingredients. Although most supplements are very safe it is advisable to speak to your vet before starting one to be sure it is suitable for your pet.


Everyone talks about turmeric, and it is a useful and powerful herb. But other herbs may be more suitable for your pet. Herbs can interact with conventional drugs so always speak to your vet before starting a herbal treatment (or ask for referral to a holistic vet!).


Acupuncture can be very useful for muscular pain and is tolerated well by most pets. Pets with chronic pain may need regular treatments to keep them moving comfortably.


Class 4 laser therapy (also called photobiomodulation) can aid wound healing, improve blood flow to injured areas, and seems useful for painful joint and muscle conditions. Many veterinary practices now offer laser therapy. Red light machines sold for home use are less effective as they don’t penetrate deep into tissues.


Hydrotherapy, osteopathy, massage, and physiotherapy can all help your pet build muscle and improve their range of motion. They can also be really useful for pets who need to lose weight.


These two are free and are maybe the most important things we can do! Your veterinary practice will be able to advise on safe weight loss and exercise programmes.


Don’t worry any more! Call your vet and find out. Then, if you want to include some evidence based complementary therapy, get in touch with us!

Email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk



Our vet is taking a well earned break!

Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is CLOSED until Tuesday 29th September.

For urgent pet health problems please call your primary care vet.

Email or text with non-urgent enquiries but be aware they will not be dealt with until 29th.


We aim to provide an affordable complementary veterinary service, but the prices of stock as well as fuel and insurance rise year on year. We have held prices for sometime, but now we need to make some increases.


Home Visit Acupuncture Initial Course £200

Acupuncture Subsequent Visits £50

Holistic Consultation £100

Repeat or Telephone Consultation £70

Herbal Tinctures from £15 for 50ml to £60 for 500ml

Behaviour Assessment and Treatment Plans £300


Looking for pet health advice?

Where do you go when you want pet health advice? Google, the pet shop, a book, your dog groomer, the vets?

It has never been easier to look for information on pet health and care, but how do you know which sources to trust, and who is allowed to treat your pet?

Your vet is your pet’s second best friend!

Your vet really does have your pet’s best interests at heart. Your vet should be your first port of call if your pet is unwell. All veterinary practices in the UK will have a vet or veterinary nurse to deal with your queries 24 hours a day (though this may be via an emergency clinic at night or weekends).

Some insurance companies offer access to a telephone or video triage service which can advise you on how urgent the problem is, and Veterinary Poisons Information Service have a line for owners worried their pet has eaten something toxic.

Your veterinary practice website might also have pages on a range of illnesses and symptoms.

Online support groups can be useful

Your vet may suggest an on-line support group or website for your pet’s condition. When these are run by vets, nurses, or even drug companies you can be sure of getting great advice. Be more careful with owner run groups as sometimes these are sources of poor, unqualified advice.

Who can help me treat my pet?


Only a qualified vet can make a diagnosis or supply medicines for your pet. Recommending supplements and diets is a grey area, and you should consult your vet before making any changes.

Vets will often work with paraprofessionals including hydrotherapists, physiotherapists, and behavourists. But the buck always stops with the vet!

What about homeopathy and zoopharmacognosy?

Yep, even those must be done by a vet or under the instruction of a vet unless you are treating your own pet.

There are many vets offering a natural or holistic approach to veterinary care.

Why? Is it all about big pharma?

No, it’s all about animal protection. Animals are not little humans. They can react to chemicals in a very different way to humans. They also can’t communicate their needs or consent to treatments. Vets are trained and entrusted to make a diagnosis and choose the best treatment paths with the pet’s owner. Despite concerns, the RCVS has not banned vets from using complementary treatments, it just expects us to have considered all options and to have discussed the evidence for each treatment with the owner. Informed consent. We are also not allowed to make wild unsubstantiated claims about treatments. We have to do 35 hours of extra training every year to stay up to date. We have to be insured and pay for the RCVS to regulate us. If we suggest an unproven treatment which harms your pet without explaining the risks (be that conventional or complementary) or make an avoidable error in diagnosis… you have some comeback against us. Try taking an internet supplier with no registered address to court…

Prove it!



We are finding ways to live with the threat of Covid -19


Round One definitely went to Covid 19 as the government lockdown measures and BVA/RCVS guidance left us with no way of treating anything other than our most needy patients. For almost 8 weeks we have treated just one or two dogs with acupuncture because there was no conventional option for them and they were likely to deteriorate badly without treatment.

Round Two was declared a draw. We looked at new ways to support our clients by offering Facebook Pet First Aid and Gundog Training rescources. Unfortunately we learned that most people are not willing to pay for online content because they are so used to getting everything for free. That said, those who signed up for the groups have found them excellent value for money, and they will remain as a resource for us to direct people to in the future. We have had a great time chatting to new puppy owners and helping them through the first few weeks with socialisation and habituation ideas which were lockdown freindly. So why a draw? Our novel approaches have not generated our usual level of income and we have had to dip into savings to keep going. We are as yet unsure if we will qualify for government help.

Round Three. Ding ding. Round Three starts on Monday! Our opening hours are changing because our vet Vicky Payne also works at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne, and they will be running two separate teams from Monday. Easing of lockdown restrictions means we can do a little more work, so maybe we can win round three?


In all cases payment by BACS is preferred. Details will be provided with invoices.

We prefer enquiries by test or email to avoiding disturbing other patient’s treatment. We endeavour to reply to enquiries withing 48hours. We require all patients to be registered with a first opinion practice for emergency and out of hours care.

We are available for home visits and virtual consultations on Thursdays and Fridays from 10am-4pm.

Phone and Video consultations

These will continue to be offered for most behavioural assessments, holistic/herbal medicine consultations, and puppy support packages.

Puppy Support Package £50

Holistic/ Herbal consultation £50 (£40 repeat)

Behaviour Assessment/ Treatment Package £240

Home Visits

These are only available where the consultation can take place in the open air (garden, patio, airy outbuilding etc). Social distancing will be maintained, and you may request we wear a face covering.

Acupuncture Initial Course £180

Acupuncture Repeat Visits £40

(Discounts for additional animals treated at the same time)

Puppy Health Check and Microchip (Breeders only) £20 per puppy plus mileage based visit fee.

Gundog puppy services – please contact us by text or email.

Facebook Groups

Garden Gundogs! (Over 20 videos for all ages and experiences to start or polish up your pet gundog’s training) £40

Pet First Aid Plus (Everything from our popular First Aid Courses plus a whole lot more.) £40