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Puppy training is a very important part of ensuring your new puppy grows up to be a well socialised and trained member of the family. Training can begin pretty much as soon as your new family member comes home at around 8 weeks of age. Yes, your puppy is small, cute and still a baby, so to speak, but now is an important time to set some ground rules, and begin the basics. Everyone knows of someone who owns ‘that dog’ who jumps up, barks at the window, or drags its owner around the park. These are all totally avoidable behaviours, and all it takes is patient training and your puppy can sit nicely when being greeted, and walk calmly to heel.

Training should always be fun and rewarding for your puppy. We use the term positive reinforcement, by which we mean that the action has a positive outcome. For instance when the puppy sits, he gets a treat or a game with his toy. We do not use negative reinforcement, so if the puppy does not sit he gets told off. Positive reinforcement will mean that puppy will be willing and happy to perform that action again, whereas negative reinforcement can lead to delayed learning, and can affect your newly forming bond.


Clicker training is a popular new type of training, which can help dogs learn faster as you can be more accurate with telling them when they have performed the correct action. A ‘clicker’ is a small hand held plastic device that makes a clicking sound when depressed.  The dog learns that the click means they have done something correctly, and that a treat will follow. It is a means of marking the good behaviour that the dog has done as soon as it is done, so timing is very important. For instance, as soon as the puppy goes into the sit position, you click and give the treat. This can mean the puppy instantly knows when it has done something correctly, rather than waiting for you to dig out the treat! It is also useful, for what we call ‘shaping’ behaviours. For instance, my dog Binny was clicker trained, and so when he performed a natural behaviour, which was wiping his feet when coming in from outside, I was able to click and treat this behaviour and he learnt that it was desired. I could then gradually add in a command ‘wipe feet’ and we have shaped a natural behaviour with clicker training.


Training sessions should be small and short, for example 5-10 minutes a couple of times a day is plenty. A puppy will only have a short attention span, and will tire quickly. You want to ensure that the session ends on a positive note, and not go on for so long that they lose interest and start getting things wrong. The basic things your new puppy must learn (besides toilet and crate training) are:

  • • Sit
  • • Down
  • • Stay
  • • Walk to heel
  • • recall

Once the basics are in place and are consistent, other fun things to teach could be:

  • • Paw
  • • Roll over
  • • High five
  • • Speak

To train your puppy, first you must start off with no distractions, for instance in a room the puppy is used to, with no other people or loud noises. This reduces the chances of the puppy getting distracted. Prepare yourself with some tasty treats which your puppy is used to, so they will not get an upset tummy. Little Star are great as they can be broken up into small pieces, so as not to overload them with too much food. Small pieces of cheddar cheese or chicken are also good, if your dog can tolerate them. Keep some treats which are ‘special’ for training, so if your puppy is already getting chicken with his dinner for instance, he will be less likely to see it as a good reward. A treat pouch is useful, which you can attach to your waist so it is easy to reach.


To train the ‘sit’ the treat should be shown to the puppy, then held infront of the nose, and gently moved up and backwards. This lures the puppy, as its natural reaction is to look at the treat, and this will in turn make the bottom touch the ground. As soon as the puppy has sat, give the treat and some praise, or if your puppy is clicker trained, click and treat. Repeat this a few times, letting the puppy get up and move about in-between. Once the puppy has got the hang of the sit and is quite consistent, you can pair it up with the word ‘sit’ which must be used as the bottom is heading to the ground. If the word is used too early, and the puppy does not sit, the word becomes meaningless. Hand signals can also be used.  Remember to keep the training session short and fun, you could end by playing a game with your puppy and their favourite toy. Once the puppy is able to perform the command in an area with no distractions, you can gradually change the location, so you can do it with other people in the room, or out in the park.




These are important minerals for a dog with chronic heart failure. A deficiency of magnesium or phosphorus can exacerbate the potential side effects of cardiac medications and may cause other problems such as muscle weakness and cardiac arrhythmias. Magnesium levels should be monitored in your dog and if he/she becomes deficient then a diet with higher levels may be recommended. However, whether the dog requires a diet higher or lower in potassium depends completely on the individual animal. Again, your vet will need to check your dog regularly and moderate the diet when and if necessary.



Some of the specialist diets specifically developed for cardiac disease have a reduced phosphorus content too. Phosphorus, along with calcium is a major component of bone. Phosphorus is also found in the soft tissues and plays a role in almost all of the body’s metabolic processes. However, phosphorus restriction is important once kidney failure has been diagnosed. During renal failure the kidney’s ability to filter and excrete phosphorus declines and the build-up of phosphorus in the body can be toxic. Reducing dietary phosphorus for dogs with kidney failure has been shown to increase their lifespan by 2-3 times compared to dogs fed on a standard food. As many dogs with heart disease also have kidney disease, some companies have chosen to restrict phosphorus in the diet as well as minerals such as sodium. However, phosphorus restriction is not necessary to aid patients with heart disease if their kidneys are functioning correctly.


During normal cell metabolism (oxidation) the body produces unstable molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for normal aging but if they are able to increase in numbers they can cause disease and illness too. Contaminants such as pollution and damage from sunlight (sun burn) can increase the amount of free radicals the body produces. Antioxidants including Vitamins C and E help to neutralise free radicals and therefore reduce the destruction caused by free radicals. However, studies have shown that dogs with either Dilated cardiomyopathy or Mitral Valve disease have an imbalance between free radical production and the amount of antioxidant protection available. Therefore it has been recommended that the diet of a dog with heart disease is supplements with antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, however scientific evidence to support the need for supplementation is still weak.


Vet’s Kitchen dry food contains 8% moisture, the rest of the food (92%) is called dry matter and this is where all the nutrients in the food are. Different brands of dry food and types of foods e.g. wet food or semi moist food all contain different moisture contents. These differences in moisture content make it difficult to do a direct comparison on nutrient levels, therefore nutrients are usually only compared on a dry matter basis instead of an ‘as fed’ basis.




Chronic kidney disease is unfortunately a problem in cats and dogs we see all too frequently and at our Vet’s Klinic we help many pets and their owners to manage this difficult news. The kidneys are essential for filtering waste products into urine and for water and electrolyte (essential salt) balance along with the regulation of certain hormones. This article touches on the causes, diagnosis and treatment options available to you and your canine or feline friend.



Kidney disease (also known as renal disease or renal failure) comes in two forms, acute or chronic. Acute kidney disease is often due to toxins, usually accidental poisoning by ingestion of antifreeze/medications, or from diseases, such as leptospirosis (which can be vaccinated against). The symptoms will appear suddenly, over a couple of days. These can sometimes be treated, although the effects on the kidneys may not be fully reversed, depending on how quickly treatment is sought.

Chronic kidney disease (CRF) is fairly common, and mostly seen in older/senior animals, which we class as animals over 8 years of age. Chronic Kidney disease is more common in cats than dogs and is often secondary to other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. However, it is estimated that 1 in 10 dogs will also suffer from this disease. It has a slower progression than acute kidney disease, and builds up over time. There are several possible causes, and signs are often hard to spot initially, as they are not visible until 75% of the kidney function has already been lost.

The main signs of chronic kidney disease are:

  • ·         increased drinking
  • ·         increase in urination
  • ·         decreased appetite
  • ·         weight loss
  • ·         vomiting
  • ·         lethargy

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, you should go and see your vet.


There are many different causes for the loss of kidney function and often it is impossible to tell the original causative factor. To simplify into three categories there are causes before, in, and after the kidneys which can lead to damage to the kidneys:

  • ·         include any event decreasing or increasing the flow of blood to the kidneys such as dehydration/shock or low/high blood pressure, or certain toxins/drugs or infection. In cats, there are other factors that can lead to the development of kidney disease, such as hyperthyroidism.
  • ·         include acquired diseases such as tumours or stones which cause destruction of normal kidney tissue. Specific breeds of cat may also suffer from genetic problems that may predispose them to developing diseases that affect kidney function such as renal amyloidosis in Abyssinians or polycystic kidney disease in Persians.
  • ·         include any blockages after the kidney for example by stones or lower urinary tract disease can cause damage to the kidneys by a back-up in pressure as well as bladder infections which reach the kidneys. [insert link here to blocked cat article?] All of these processes result in varying degrees of damage to the kidneys and loss of function. This then leads to a build-up of waste products, and reduced regulation of water balance, electrolytes and certain hormones such as parathyroid hormone which is involved in calcium regulation and erythropoietin which is the hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.

Dental disease can also have an impact on the kidneys, as bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and attack the kidneys. The vet can have a look at your pet’s teeth and gums and assess if they will require a dental procedure called a scale and polish, and possible extractions of rotten teeth. However, this does have risks if the pet does already have kidney problems, as the anaesthetic and drugs used in the procedure could worsen the problem.