Category Archives: General News

The Long and the Short of it…

Spot the difference…….










(Images taken from University of Cambridge BOAS research group website)

These images are both CT scans of dog heads. The dog on the left is a Labrador Retriever and the dog on the right is a Pug. Both dogs have the same anatomical structures except the Pug has them packaged in a much more compact skull. Pugs are just one type of dog classed as a brachycephalic breed. The term ‘brachycephalic’ literally means ‘short head’. French bulldogs, Bulldogs, Boxers and Shih-tzus are also considered to be brachycephalic breeds.

The black areas on the scan pictures represent air within the skull making it possible to compare the airways of these two dogs. When dogs inhale, air is sucked into the nostrils and flows over the nasal turbinate bones. It then passes through the naso-pharynx (throat) and continues into the trachea (windpipe) before reaching the lungs. The scan of the Labrador’s skull shows the airways are relatively wide and unrestricted. The scan of the Pug’s skull shows a much shorter nose with a narrower airway which becomes almost completely constricted around the throat.

Trends in the popularity of specific dog breeds are not uncommon in the UK. According to The Kennel Club, Labradors were the most popular breed in the UK for nearly 30 years before being nudged into second place in 2018 by French Bulldogs. The popularity of all brachycephalic breeds has soared in recent years. Images of these dogs have been widely used in many advertising campaigns promoting products ranging from insurance to mobile phones.

The more demand there is for these dogs the more intensely they are bred and this can lead to a higher rate of breed-related health problems. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is a condition affecting a large number of these animals. Some dogs have severely deformed airways which can lead to serious breathing problems.

The main physical features seen in dogs suffering from BOAS include: narrowed nostrils, excessive soft tissue inside the larynx, an over-long soft palate,a narrowed trachea.

Dogs suffering from BOAS display symptoms that include: noisy breathing and snoring, reduced exercise tolerance (including collapse in severe cases), sleep apnoea, swallowing problems, reverse sneezing.

Environmental factors can contribute to the severity of the disease. Hot weather is particularly difficult for brachycephalic dogs; they can overheat very quickly and may develop life threatening hyperthermia. Dogs who are overweight carry excessive fat around their throats which can exacerbate the symptoms of BOAS.

The severity of BOAS varies between individuals; a grading system has been produced by Cambridge University to help identify dogs in danger of developing life threatening breathing difficulties.  Brachycephalic dogs who score Grade 0 are entirely unaffected and can breathe normally. Dogs who fall into the Grade 3 category are severely affected and will require surgical intervention in order to lead a normal life.

The Kennel Club is funding a research project led by the University of Cambridge into BOAS as there are concerns that unless responsible breeding programs are introduced the number of dogs suffering from BOAS will continue to rise.

Dogs who are affected by BOAS may lead a better quality of life if they undergo surgery to widen their nostrils and reduce the amount of soft tissue obstructing their airways.

At Avonvale we support responsible breeding and therefore feel it is important to highlight BOAS as a potential concern associated with brachycephalic breeds. We see many brachycephalic patients and enjoy getting to know these fascinating dogs with huge personalities; they can make wonderful family pets.

Before buying a puppy it is worth doing a bit of research to ensure that breeders have considered BOAS and are only producing puppies who are not affected by this syndrome. It is a good idea to view both parents and also any offspring from previous litters.

If you would like any more information about BOAS or are worried about your dog please contact us at any of our surgeries.










Posted in General News, Pet health care advice | Tagged , , ,

Inka the lab ‘nose’ how to sniff out of trouble


Vet Victoria Collingwood used the otoscope to spot the seed.

A leading Warwickshire vet has described the grass seed she removed from a Labrador retriever’s nose as the biggest she has ever found in her career!

The large grass seed was removed from six-year-old Inka by Victoria Collingwood at Avonvale Veterinary Centres’ Stratford branch.

Inka had been out for a walk, in and out of hedgerows, when her owners noticed she was sneezing a lot and rubbing her face on the ground, so took her to Avonvale.

Despite nothing immediately visible up her nostril, her owners told Victoria they believed a grass seed was the problem as they had only recently experienced a seed issue with their other pet dog.

Inka was given a local anaesthetic up her nose and Victoria used an otoscope – which is more commonly used to check in the ear – to look further up the nostril.


The large grass seed which was removed from Inka’s nostril.

A large seed was discovered wedged about four to five centimetres up her nose.

Victoria said: “It really was quite far up, but once it had been located, we had little difficulty removing it with forceps.

Inka was a little star throughout the whole procedure.

She is a model patient.

“This was certainly the biggest seed I have ever found up a nose in my career so far!

“This case was unusual due to the size of the seed involved but, for dogs, problems associated with grass seeds are incredibly common at this time of year.

“Due to the seed’s shape they travel easily into the body and can get stuck.


Inka was described as a “model patient”.


“It’s important for owners to check their dogs after a walk and remove any seeds they find caught in the fur, paying particular attention to the feet and between the toes. Keeping the fur short around the feet can also help.

“If you believe your dog may have a grass seed caught somewhere, of they develop a swelling, or are unusually irritated or upset, then contact your vet as soon as possible.”

Inka’s owner Toni Senior, from Ullington, near Bidford on Avon, said: “The idea that it was a grass seed immediately sprung to our minds as our other Lab recently got one stuck in their eye.

“Luckily Inka was not too upset about having the seed removed.

“She is a dog that loves attention and cuddles and because of the wonderful way Avonvale have always treated her, she is willing to do anything they ask of her.

She behaves beautifully when there.”

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Warwickshire Vets Toast ‘Double’ Anniversary

Top Warwickshire vets Andrea and Simon Davies are toasting a remarkable double – their 20th wedding and work anniversaries!

The happy couple married in 1999 and later that year moved to the Leamington Spa area to start work as young vets at Avonvale Veterinary Centres.

Andrea & Simon on their wedding day

Andrea & Simon on their wedding day

It’s certainly been a successful and eventful 20 years on both fronts. Simon is now clinical director at Avonvale’s flagship practice in Warwick, which is a first opinion veterinary centre and pet hospital, while Andrea is a senior veterinary surgeon at Avonvale’s Southam clinic.

The pet-loving pair, who live in Heathcote, also now have three children, Luke, 17, Oliver, 15, and Lauren, 10.

Simon admits Andrea was the trail-blazer, revealing: “Just after we were married, she was working as a locum for Avonvale at their Wellesbourne clinic and they were so impressed with her they offered her a full-time job.

“Andrea immediately asked if they’d take me on too – and they did! We’ve not looked back since.

“We moved to the Leamington area and honestly thought we might be here for a couple of years or so.

“Twenty years on we are still here, still working with Avonvale and we’ve no plans to move on – this is home now.”

Andrea also made the first move in the relationship stakes, when they were veterinary students at Bristol University in 1991.

She recalled: “It was in the Halls of Residence at Bristol University and I walked over to Simon and asked him if he liked Abba.

“He smiled and said ‘Yes’ and that’s how it all started.”

Andrea & Simon today

Andrea & Simon today

Nowadays they’re busy looking to the future with Avonvale, which has sites in Warwick, Kenilworth, Stratford, Heathcote, Southam, Wellesbourne and Cubbington, continuing to invest in industry-leading facilities, equipment and staff.

Andrea added: “There’s definitely benefits for us both working for the same company. Lots of what we do overlaps, we obviously know the same people and working at different sites means we are not under each other’s feet the whole time.”

Simon said: “The children are growing up fast, there’s universities, big exams and senior schools to think about these days so we are busy at home and at work – but that’s the way we like it.”

Posted in General News, Leamington News, Warwick News | Tagged , ,

Leading Warwickshire vets throwing open its doors

A leading Warwickshire vet is throwing open the doors to one of its branches so the public can discover more about veterinary care.

Avonvale Veterinary Centres will be holding an open evening at its Wellesbourne branch, in Warwick Road, on Thursday, August 8 from 7pm.

Deborah Newman, senior vet, said: “Not only is the event open to all our existing clients, but we would also welcome any members of the public who want to come along and see what services we can offer to them and their pets.

“They will be given an insight into how a veterinary practice operates as we will have a mock surgery set up. They will also be able to see the prep room and theatre.

“As well as a tour of the facilities, there will be a series of displays focusing on things such as dental x-rays and coping with pets and parasites.”
Veterinary staff will be on hand throughout the event to answer any questions visitors have.

For those with a sweet tooth, cakes are also being prepared by staff to raise money for Cat’s Protection, Avonvale’s chosen charity.

deborah newman from avonvale vets

Senior vet Deborah Newman is inviting the public to the open evening at the Wellesbourne branch.

Posted in General News, Warwick News | Tagged ,

Bella’s having a ball after life-changing operation

bella the pug at avonvale veterinary centre

Bella the pug is now much happier after her operation.

A pug dog is enjoying a new lease of life after a leading Warwickshire vet carried out an operation which dramatically improved her breathing problems.

Like many pugs and other flat faced dogs, Bella, who is six, suffered from Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

The breed has all of the anatomy of a longer nosed dog condensed into their flat noses, so there can be very little room for air to get in and out.

Bella was given a general anaesthetic and Katie Wain, clinical director of Avonvale Veterinary Centres, operated to remove part of her soft pallet, to solve the issue.

The case has prompted Katie to issue advice to owners of flat faced dogs. She said it is not normal for them to breathe noisily and if they are doing this, owners should take them to see a vet.

katie and bella at avonvale veterinary  surgery

Bella with Katie Wain, clinical director at Avonvale Veterinary Centres

Katie said: “I found her soft palate was too long and was flapping and blocking her airway so I shortened this to stop it happening.

“She also had really tiny nostrils which I made bigger.

“Immediately after the op you could hear a difference in her breathing. We kept her in overnight so we could monitor her and she was sent home the following day.

“Now, nine months later, and her owners simply can’t believe the difference in her. She is a much brighter and happier dog.”

David Barnes, who takes care of Bella during the week while his daughter Charlotte is at work, said: “The change in Bella was almost instantaneous. Before her op, she really struggled, particularly on hot days.

“She would get breathless when we took her for walks, she would snore really loudly and her inability to breath properly used to wake her up at night. It was so upsetting.

“She is now a different dog. She is just so happy. She is no longer distressed at night by sleep apnea, caused by gasping for breath”.

Bella is already a bit of a legend as last year, David released a book about his and Bella’s life together. Money made through sales of “Paws for Thought” is being donated to Pug and French Bull Dog Rescue and Rehoming Foundation, in Wales.

Katie has some advice to pug owners. She said: “People should be aware that BOAS is a problem that often occurs in this breed of dog.

“Many people think their noisy breathing is normal but it really isn’t. A normal dog shouldn’t make a noise when breathing, this is a sign that something is blocking the airway.”

She said another issue with pugs is that they are very prone to heat stroke, so owners should be wary with the summer approaching.

Posted in General News, Pet health care advice, Warwick News | Tagged

Leading Warwickshire vet welcomes nursery youngsters

A leading Warwickshire vet threw open its doors to potential vets and nurses of the future.

Youngsters from Castle Pre-school in Kenilworth climbed aboard their new mini bus for a special visit to Avonvale Veterinary Centre’s Kenilworth branch to discover what is involved in being a vet and learning how to care for their animals.

Pre-school manager Claudia Hamminger-Stone said: “The children went into a consulting room and clinical director Kieran O’Halloran demonstrated how a vet might take care of a dog, using a puppet.

“He showed them how to use a stethoscope and he examined the dog thoroughly.

“They then talked about how to care for their pets, and it was fantastic how well they communicated when it came to discussing their animals.

“We think it is vitally important for children of this age not just to be told about a career or profession but to get a close up look at what is involved in it. It’s brilliant for their education.

“The children had a wonderful time and we would like to thank Kieran and everyone at Avonvale.”

Kieran said: “It was a pleasure to show the children around and give them a bit of an insight into what it is we do here.

“Seeing the delight on their faces when they talked about their own pets and how they liked caring for them was just wonderful.

“It went so well and we look forward to more groups from the nursery visiting us in future.”

Youngsters from Castle Nursery enjoyed their visit to Avonvale Veterinary Centre’s Kenilworth

Youngsters from Castle Nursery enjoyed their visit to Avonvale Veterinary Centre’s Kenilworth

Posted in General News |

Avonvale vets receive training from dentistry expert

A group of Warwickshire vets and nurses received specialist in-house training in x-rays and extractions from a veterinary dentistry expert as part of collaborative working between practices belonging to the Linnaeus Group.

The group of 12 vets and two veterinary nurses from Avonvale Veterinary Centres received a day of training from Andrew Perry, European Specialist in Veterinary Dentistry from Eastcott Referrals, in Swindon, and Alix Freeman, Resident in Dentistry and Oral Surgery.

avonvale dentistry expert

Andrew Perry demonstrates x-ray techniques

Eastcott and Avonvale are both part of the Linnaeus Group – a partnership of first opinion and referral veterinary practices which has more than 100 sites across the UK.

The training took place at Avonvale’s Wellesbourne site and comes at the perfect time for the practice, which has just invested £35,000 in four new digital x-ray systems.

Avonvale clinical director, Katie Wain, said: “Dentistry is only briefly taught at university when people do undergraduate courses because there is so much that has to be covered.

avonvale vets dentistry training

Andrew Perry demonstrates x-ray techniques for avonvale staff

“Most vets learn the finer art of dentistry through training once they have started the job, either through colleagues or courses.

“This is the first time we have had an expert from Eastcott come to do in-house training and it has been invaluable.
“The use of x-rays in veterinary dentistry is becoming more commonplace and is superb for diagnosing root problems and periodontal issues, so getting as much training as possible is vital.”

Andrew said: “Eastcott has always offered specialist led, in-house dental training, although we have recently started promoting its availability to our colleagues within the Linnaeus Group.

avonvale vets dentistry training by an expert

Katie Wain, Alix Freeman and Andrew Perry

“Training is always tailored to the specific practice’s needs. Avonvale’s was based around the fundamental skills of dental radiography and radiology and tooth extractions.

“We provided both theoretical and practical training in each discipline. At the request of the delegates, a review of gingivitis stomatitis complex and regional anaesthesia was also provided.

“There is often relatively limited access to high quality training during the undergraduate veterinary course but dental diseases are exceedingly common and can leave pets with significant debilitation. Additional training helps to provide general practitioners with the skills and knowledge they need to serve patients’ needs.

“I had a fantastically enjoyable day at Avonvale. The group picked up all of the techniques we covered really well and hopefully feel increased confidence to go and use these new skills as soon as possible.”

Avonvale plans another day of dentistry training from Eastcott Referrals later in the year for the rest of its vets.

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Avonvale Vet rescues abandoned kittens

Stray kittens Dobby and Darcie have found a new dream home after being cruelly abandoned in the Leamington Spa area – they’re now the new pets of the vet that helped rescue them.

abandoned kittens exploring avonvale veterinary surgery

Stray kittens Dobby and Darcie at play at Avonvale Veterinary Centres in Heathcote where they were cared for after being abandoned.

The abandoned new-borns were handed into Avonvale Veterinary Centres in Heathcote, after being picked up by the local branch of the RSPCA.

They were cared for around the clock by Stephanie Hughes, senior vet at the Heathcote practice, who has now decided to adopt them.

Stephanie explained: “We do a lot of work with the local branch of the RSPCA and they recently handed in these two kittens, who we named Dobby and Darcie.

“Dobby is a black and white male cat while Darcie is a tortoise shell female. I am hand rearing them both at the moment, which means they are following me everywhere!

avonvale veterinary centres kittens

Abandoned kittens Darcie and Dobby exploring at Avonvale Veterinary Centres in Heathcote where they were cared for after being dumped.

“Hand rearing means they need bottle feeding every two to four hours and they are on a liquid-only diet. They also need stimulating to go to the toilet, which is something else their mother would normally do for them.

“They are both adorable. I have grown very attached to them so they will be staying with me permanently now. They even come to work with me with the Avonvale nursing and reception staff helping me out with their care. It’s lucky there’s so many cat-lovers on the staff!”

It may be a happy ending for Dobby and Darcie but Stephanie says the problem of unwanted kittens being dumped is a continual challenge for the practice.

steph from avonvale vets with her adopted kittens

Stray kittens Dobby and Darcie with Stephanie Hughes, senior vet at Avonvale Veterinary Centres in Heathcote, who has adopted them.

She added: “We take in a lot of strays here and we always try to help but the best way to cope with the number of strays is for owners to have their pets neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”


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Water safety

Just a quick reminder about how to let your dog enjoy water safely this summer…

  • Dogs can become very unwell if they drink too much water; it may cause a condition called Water Intoxication. Swallowing small amounts of water over a long period of time (e.g. when playing ball) can put dogs at risk. Symptoms include: vomiting, bloating, tiredness, loss of coordination, pale gums.
  • Drowning- Many dogs are great swimmers but even the strongest paddlers can be caught out by tides and currents. Discarded waste and other underwater obstacles may also pose a threat. Contact a vet immediately if your dog is unwell after swimming or has inhaled water.
  • Human safety- There have been instances of owners drowning when trying to save their pet. Don’t take the risk.
  • Take plenty of fresh drinking water to the beach- saltwater can make dogs vomit.
  • Wash your dog’s coat and paws after playing on the beach. This removes salt and also prevents sand and saltwater drying and irritating the skin.
  • Avoid freshwater lakes, canals, ponds and rivers that are contaminated with blue-green algae; this can make dogs very ill. Check that the water looks clean before allowing your dog to jump in. If your dog has been swimming in contaminated water and develops

    Blue-green algae can cause a serious, fatal bacterial infection in animals. It can appear as foam at the edges of non-flowing water.

Make sure your dog can enjoy the water safely.


Posted in General News |

Protect pets from ticks and fleas

Ticks and fleas are much more prevalent in warmer weather

Protect pets from ticks and fleasWith improved summer weather just around the corner, leading Warwickshire vets are reminding cat and dog owners to protect their pets from the misery of fleas, ticks and worms.

Although they are a year-round concern, parasites such as ticks and fleas are much more prevalent as the weather gets warmer and pets begin to spend more time outdoors, warned Avonvale Veterinary Centre’s clinical director, Simon Davies.

Ticks can cause significant discomfort and can, in some circumstances, infect animals and their owners with diseases such as Lyme disease, a bacterial illness which causes flu-like symptoms.

Pets can also get tapeworms from fleas, while roundworms and hookworms can travel from pets to their owners and have potentially serious consequences for both.

Simon is now urging owners to check their pets carefully and make sure all preventative treatments are up-to-date, to combat the risk of potentially serious health problems.

He said: “It is really important owners protect their pets from fleas, ticks and worms as we head into summer and the risk of getting bitten increases as animals, like us, spend much more time outdoors.

“Owners should regularly check their pet’s coat for any signs of ticks by running their fingers through the fur and for fleas by close inspection or by using a fine-toothed comb.” 

“They should also be on the look-out for any excessive scratching, itching and biting, which are classic signs of a problem, along with scabs, hair loss or allergic reactions.”

“We’d encourage anyone who hasn’t already got preventative care in place to book an appointment with one of our vet nurses. This will ensure they get expert advice and information about appropriate treatments to keep their pets in the best possible health this summer and beyond.” 

“For animals travelling abroad, it is essential they have robust worm treatment and tick prevention to protect them from more serious tick-borne diseases which are prevalent in Europe.” 

Avonvale has branches in Kenilworth, Stratford, Warwick, Heathcote, Southam, Wellesbourne and Cubbington, search for Avonvale Veterinary Centres on Facebook.

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