Have a read of our latest pet health blogs, written by our vets!

Why feed your pet a premium food brand?

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We all know that super-premium pet foods can appear expensive to buy – but are they really? 


When daily feeding amounts for individual foods are calculated correctly there isn’t actually that much difference… for example, for a 5kg cat “X” brand premium food compared to “X” brand supermarket food costs only 26 cents extra per day, and for a 20kg dog only 15 cents extra per day.  Now, is it really worth that little bit extra?

Quite simply – super-premium pet foods provide exceptional value for money.  Remember, you get what you pay for. The better the quality of ingredients used in a pet food, the easier it is for that food to be absorbed and utilised by the body.  Here is a little example of this – leather boots are a form of protein, but how easy do you think it would be to eat, digest and use this protein in your body!? The bonus of higher quality ingredients is that you are able to feed less volume meaning less comes out the other end for you to tidy from the litter tray or the back lawn.

Super-premium pet foods are also ‘complete and balanced’. This means that premium foods contain all the essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which your pet needs each day.  These are provided in the correct ratios to each other for the body to be able to function properly. It is essential to make sure that the pet food you feed states ‘complete and balanced’ on the packaging. 

Premium pet foods are also made with a “fixed formula”. This means that the same food contains the same ingredients 100% of the time.  Lesser quality foods are often made using a floating formula which means some of the nutrients may differ each time a batch is made, depending on what ingredient is cheapest or readily available at the time of manufacturing.  Premium foods are not only formulated to meet world-wide standards established by AAFCO (the American Association of Feed Control Officials) but most give you the added assurance that they have been fed to animals in feeding trials to test the nutritional performance of a food, which gives a guarantee of its quality.

There are many other added benefits to feeding your pet a super-premium food.  Some of which include:

  • DHA – a fatty acid which aids in healthy brain development, especially important for puppies and kittens
  • Added glucosamine and chondroitin – for joint health, especially important in large breed dog and senior foods. As well as Omega 3 which helps with inflammation, joint and skin issues
  • Dental defence systems – enzymes added to help prevent the formation of plaque and tartar on your pets teeth
  • Life-stage specific – kittens and cats, puppies and adult dogs, and senior pets all have very different nutritional requirements
  • Breed specific – dogs are classified into three categories, small, medium and large breed, and these groups have very different nutritional requirements
  • Urinary tract, gastro-intestinal and skin health – premium pet foods all contain added vitamins, minerals and supplements to support these vital body systems

Nutrition plays a vital role in the overall well-being, health and longevity of our pets, just as it does in our own lives.  So, which would you chose if you were in your pets shoes?  The answer is simple.  Feed your best friend, companion or working partner the very best – so they can thrive, not just survive.


The dangers of heatstroke

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Summer is a fun time for all, but the heat can be lethal to our pets. We really hope that knowing how to avoid heatstroke and being more aware of the risk factors and warning signs will help prevent unnecessary deaths. 


The most important thing to realise is that dogs and cats DO NOT sweat like humans do.  They release heat through their tongues primarily, and to a lesser extent their foot pads and nose.  This is much less effective than sweating – so even if you are comfortable, your dog may be too hot.  This means that when you leave an animal in an enclosed space such as a car, even if the vehicle is in the shade and even if the outside temperature is cool, the temperature and humidity build up very quickly once panting begins.  The animal will struggle to get rid of the excess heat quickly enough and its body temperature will start to rise above the normal 39oC, often in a matter of minutes.

Big dogs (St Bernard), dogs with flat faces (Boxer, Pug), overweight, older, dehydrated or anxious pets are all more likely to develop heat stroke.  Remember that even relatively cool areas can be dangerous if the animal is unable to access cold water.

Heat stroke can be life-threatening.  Breathing will become rapid, frantic and noisy. The tongue and mucous membranes will become bright red, the saliva thick, and vomiting may occur.  Animals with heat stroke tend to walk very slowly, with a panicked expression, and be unaware of their environment.  Once the body temperature exceeds 41-42oC, damage can occur to the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, heart and brain.  If left unchecked, your pet will become progressively weaker, go into a coma and may die.

To help, you can hose down your dog with cool water (not cold).  Let the water run continuously in the groin area as there are large numbers of blood vessels there which will allow for more rapid cooling of the blood. Do not cover your pet with a wet towel as this will limit the evaporation.  Your vet will perform a thorough check and start any necessary treatment when you arrive at the vet clinic.

The most important message is this – heat stroke is usually avoidable: 

  • Do not leave your pet in an enclosed space for any length of time – especially the car
  • Do not exercise your pet during the hottest part of the day
  • Ensure there is access to shade and lots of fresh water, both before and after activity

If you suspect heat stroke, please ring to let us know you are coming, so that treatment can be started more quickly, which will give a better chance of a successful outcome.


heatstroke dog

Top tips for car travel with anxious dogs

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Some dogs lose their mind with excitement when it comes to going for a ride in the car (car = dog park!), while others can lose their mind with fear or stress. 


Here are some top tips to help make car travel with an anxious dog a wee bit more of a breeze.

Start early.  This is by far the most important step in helping your dog become comfortable with car travel for life.  Begin desensitising your dog to car travel from puppyhood, starting with short drives or periods of time in the car paired with positive experiences – something yummy to chew on while the car is parked in the driveway for example.  You can then start to build up the length of time they spend in the car or how far you drive, and be sure to mix things up.  Make sure you drive to fun places as well, instead of always to the vet clinic for an injection.  But at the same time, don’t always end in a destination; sometimes just drive around the block and then go home again. Dogs are pretty smart – they’ll very quickly figure it out if the only time they ever go in the car is to go somewhere “bad”!

Smells secure.  Make sure your dog has a familiar smelling bed or blanket to snuggle up on while you’re driving.  If the environment smells familiar they’ll be less likely to be stressed.

Visual barriers.  Travelling your dog in a secured crate which is covered by a thick blanket is a great way to go.  Some dogs are anxious about car travel as it makes them feel sick, just like it can people.  So, blocking the visual stimulation of things whizzing past the window at high speed may help.  Be sure to desensitise your dog to the crate first if they are not used to being in one.

Empty tummy.  Especially if you are going on a long drive, be sure not to feed your dog a meal too soon before travelling.  If a dog vomits in the car they can learn to associate the feeling of being sick with simply being in or near the car, and might not want to get in there again next time.

Fresh air.  Ensure the car is well ventilated, either with a slightly opened window or by having the car’s fan going.  We’ve even seen people with battery operated fans in their cars. Fresh air helps to ease the feeling of nausea.

Anti-anxiety wonder products.  The Thundershirt and Adaptil spray are over-the-counter anti-anxiety aids which work wonders for car travel fears.  Put the Thundershirt on your dog 10-15 minutes before the drive to help them feel calm from the very beginning.  Spray the Adaptil onto a bandana 10-15 minutes beforehand as well – this will allow time for the alcohol in the spray to dissipate.

Extreme fears of phobias of the car however may require a little extra help – so please come and see us if this is the case.  Good luck, and happy travelling.


Car travel with dog

Remember your pocket pets!

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Cats may be able to get under your feet when they are hungry and dogs nudge you for attention, however our pocket pets, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice often go unnoticed.


Once the ‘new pet’ name wears off, some of these pockets pets can easily be overlooked. They can’t bark to get your attention or trip you up when it’s tea time. Remember that pets are for life and they all require daily care.

ALL pocket pets require a good quality pellet or seed suitable for their species. They cannot live on grass alone! Unless overweight, they should have free access to this at all times. They also require unlimited access to clean, fresh water. ALL pocket pets will benefit from fresh fruit and vegetables. These should be introduced slowly, a little bit at a time, and always stop if they give them an upset tummy. If unsure about what to feed your pets, please phone the clinic and talk to one of our helpful team members.

You also need to inspect your pet daily to help pick up on any early signs of sickness. Diarrhoea, lumps and bumps, discharge and any other signs of anything unusual are best treated earlier than later.

Remember your pocket pets – every day!


Ageing in our pets

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Changes are natural, and often expected, as our pets get older. They may not have the same lust for fetch anymore, or may have put on a few pounds (hey, haven’t we all!) Here are some pointers on how to manage your pet as they start sprouting their first grey hairs.



Arthritis can occur in older pets, especially if they sustain any joint injury earlier in life.  This can range from slight stiffness to being really debilitating.  Acupuncture can help, and there are prescription foods that can be of benefit.  There are also many natural supplements that are recommended (glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel), as well as vet-only prescription medications. But don’t always assume that it is “just old age” slowing your pet down, as it could be pain-related and something that could be easily managed.  


Dental disease

Dental disease can be an issue in pets of all ages and it can lead to pain, infections, and even internal organ damage if not treated.  Chews/treats, diets, oral solutions and home-based teeth cleaning can be an aid if the disease not too severe. Dental treatment under a general anaesthetic may be required for more advanced cases of the disease. Owners of older pets are often worried about anaesthetics, but there are many things we can do to ensure a safer procedure.


Hair and skin

It is common for our pets’ hair to change colour – it may also become dull and coarse with age.  This could indicate nutritional deficiencies, an underlying medical condition, or less ability to absorb certain nutrients.  Grooming can help remove old hair, as well as giving them some extra love and attention! Our ageing friends can also develop some warts and lumps. They can often be benign, but if you are worried, come in and have a chat with us.


Hearing and sight loss

Loss of hearing and sight can sometimes be confused with bad behaviour. For example, your pet may not have heard or seen someone approaching, then act startled or respond aggressively. They may also fail to respond to commands, so your patience at times will be tested. Any sudden loss of vision or redness/cloudiness in the eyes, however, should be evaluated by the vets at the clinic.


Weight change

Weight change is also often noted in the elderly.  Metabolism and activity levels often decline, which decreases the need for calories. So, if food portions are not monitored, pets may become overweight.  This can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and a shortened life span. On the other hand, weight loss can also be a problem and should be addressed in case of underlying diseases.


It is best for you to monitor your pets closely and discuss any new symptoms with us. Addressing any problems earlier rather than later, the use of medications and supplements and making some changes to your pet’s environment can help contribute to a happier and healthier lifestyle for our old mates.

Your puppy’s first visit to the vet

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So, you’ve welcomed a new puppy into the home – how exciting! You’re probably wondering what’s in store for their first trip to the vet. Luckily we have a friendly and experienced team of vets to make this as fun as possible for your new friend.


Your puppy’s first visit to see our vet will probably be when their first vaccination is due.  This will involve a weight check and our vet will ask a variety of questions that may include:

  • How long have you owned your puppy?
  • Where did you get him/her?
  • What type of food is he/she eating?
  • Are you having trouble with house training?
  • How are you dealing with chewing?
  • How is your puppy settling in with family members, including other pets?

They may then discuss tips on behaviour, training and feeding, and answer your questions on what to expect as your puppy ages. After talking about your puppy, the exam will begin and our vet will check the following:

  • The puppy’s eyes, ears and teeth to look for abnormalities
  • The skin for abnormalities, dry skin and fleas
  • The abdomen for pain, enlarged organs or other abnormalities
  • The belly button for umbilical hernia
  • The heart and lungs to detect any heart murmurs, irregular heart rhythm or harsh lung sound
  • The joints for normal movement
  • The genitals for discharge or abnormal development

Our vet will also likely discuss relevant issues such as parasite prevention, vaccination and de-sexing.  Some purebred dogs have special concerns and our veterinarian will discuss these with you along with a scheduled time for the next visit.  


At eight weeks old, your puppy is due for their first vaccination. The core vaccine they receive guards against parvovirus, canine distemper and canine hepatitis. The next round of vaccinations will be due at around 12 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against leptospirosis if you choose), with the final vaccines given at 16 weeks (which may also include a vaccination against kennel cough if you choose). A booster is required 12 months after completion of the primary course, and then yearly or three yearly vaccines are required thereafter.  Our vet will advise you of the recommended protocol for your particular dog. 

What are we vaccinating against?

Parvovirus causes severe gastroenteritis (vomiting and bloody diarrhoea) and has a high mortality rate in puppies.   

  • It is a very “hardy” virus and can survive in the environment for a number of years.
  • The virus particles are spread by infected dogs’ faeces and are transmitted by the ingestion or inhalation of these particles.
  • Older dogs and puppies are most susceptible to disease (those with a lowered immune system).
  • Clinical signs can include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhoea
  • Depression and lethargy
  • A loss of appetite
  • There is no specific treatment for the virus, only supportive treatment.

Tracheobronchitis is often referred to as “Canine Contagious Cough” or “Kennel Cough” although this affects many dogs that have never been near a kennels.  This vaccination helps prevent infections with parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria.  It can be carried out at the same time as the other injections and may be given as an injection or involves drops inserted into the nose.  Kennel Cough is highly infectious, although not fatal, and is spread by aerosol effect. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterium which is often carried by rats and can be transmitted to dogs via rat urine.  It is recommended to vaccinate against Leptospirosis in situations where the dog may be near a dairy farm or visit the river regularly, however new research shows that even dogs living in an urban area are equally at risk.  Leptospirosis can also be fatal, and treatment relies heavily on supportive care.  This vaccination is also given by a series of primary injections followed by annual boosters. 

Why do we vaccinate?

While puppies are suckling from their mother, they receive a temporary form of immunity from disease primarily through the mother’s colostrum.  This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies and for the first 12 to 24 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows the absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.   

This maternal immunity is only of benefit during the first few weeks of life and, at some point, the level of immunity falls and the puppy must begin to produce its own long-lasting protection against disease – vaccines are used for this purpose.  As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have such a good chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system, which is why we wait until at least six weeks of age to begin the vaccination course.                         

Wellness examinations          

Each year for a dog is equivalent to 5-7 human years, so it is important that your puppy receives a wellness check every 2-3 months in his/her first year.  Regular wellness exams allow our veterinarians and nurses to evaluate your puppy’s general health and detect any health problems before they have a chance to become serious.  Since your puppy cannot vocalize his/her feelings, you must rely on regular physical examinations by our trained staff, and your own observations, to assess your puppy’s health.  Contact our clinic to schedule your puppy’s next wellness check.

October Newsletter

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Hi everyone,

Here is the latest newsletter for October. This month we are focussing on Fireworks!


Some pets can find these bright lights and loud noises very stressful, this month we look at some different options that can be used to make this time a little less stressful for both you and your pets.

Come on in and talk to the friendly team here if you have any questions.

We also have some great specials this month and remember that the flea treatment promotion is still running so there is still a chance to win the jet ski, outdoor furniture or spa, just in time for Christmas!

Till next month!

Otaki Vets