Must-have exercise and nutrition tips for dogs in Derbyshire

January 21, 2022

Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand when you are trying to lose weight or just live more healthily. At STAR Vet Clinic in Appleby Magna, we love dogs, and we love helping owners improve their dog’s health and happiness. Our team have put together some proactive dog nutrition and exercise tips to help you make a plan.

You can help other dog owners in Derbyshire by sharing your dog wellness tips on our Facebook page:

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10 top tips for creating a dog nutrition & fitness plan

  1. Choose a good quality, nutritionally complete, dry dog food that will support your dog’s health, life-stage, activity levels, and dental health.
  2. Some owners like to add wet food, look for one with good quality ingredients.
  3. Measure/weigh your dog’s food portions to ensure they are getting the right amount for their daily needs. Remember that more exercise may need more food. Ask us if you are unsure.
  4. Ensure your dog drinks plenty of water, you can always put some in with their food.
  5. Reduce treats and switch to healthier options like carrots and cooked green beans.
  6. Write down the exercises you want your dog to do and when, so you have a clear guide to keep you bothon track.
  7. Even if weight loss isn’t the focus, it is a good idea to write down weight goals (lose/gain/maintain) and measure changes every 2 – 4 weeks. This way, you can adjust the exercises or nutrition quickly if any issues arise. Pop into our Atherstone Road practice to get your dog’s starting weight. We can also do a body condition score to understand where your dog is at on the scale – just request a Nurse appointment.
  8. Increase the time, speed, and/or incline of your dog’s daily walk to burn more calories, give muscles more of a workout, and mix-up their regular routine.
  9. Try something new like dog agility if your dog is up to the challenge – be careful with older dogs and take it slow to start with.
  10. Consider a dog fitness app that lets you track routes, activities, and achievements.

Now you are ready to create your dog’s ‘healthier in 2022’ plan.

Don’t forget to make time for rest and recovery in your plan to avoid injury, burnout, or loss of interest for you both. Dogs do need daily exercise, so it is a good idea to do standard walks on some days (or all days if you have a very energetic dog) and try something more up-tempo on others. We hope you enjoy your new plan as much as your dog will!

Call us if you would like more advice or to book a body condition score appointment with our Vet Nurses on 01530 270 170.

Help your friends and family, and other Derbyshire dog owners by either sharing our article on your social media profiles or,

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Read STAR Vets’ advice on why your guinea could be overweight

December 21, 2021

The New Year is typically a time for change, making now the perfect time to change your pet’s life for the better if they are overweight. The team at STAR Vet Clinic love helping owners and have this advice about overweight guinea pigs.

Contact us to book a weight check

Reasons for an overweight guinea pig

When it comes to guinea pigs and other small furry pets, weight gain is usually (and we hate to say this but…) because as owners, we haven’t provided them with the right type or amount of food, exercise and mental stimulation.

There are other reasons guinea pigs can gain and lose weight so it’s always wise to get your pet checked out by a vet as soon as you notice a change.

  1. Weight gain (or loss) over a few days or weeks could be a sign of a medical condition, most commonly a tumour or pregnancy.
  2. Weight gain over a few hours could be an emergency condition called ‘bloat’, which is a distension of the abdomen – contact us immediately if this is the case.

Head Vet, Caroline Ward, at our practice in Appleby Magna explains why carrying excess weight is a BIG problem for small pets.

Overweight guinea pigs are:

  • less able to reach their rear-end to clean it, which amplifies the risk of flystrike (often fatal)
  • putting more strain on joints leading to painful movement
  • less mobile and agile, affecting their everyday quality of life and ability to exercise
  • candidates for diabetes, typically if fed a high-carb diet with lots of fruit & sugary treats
  • at increased risk of complications if pregnant

Assuming all is well, right now is the ideal time to help your small pet shift excess fat.

Helping your guinea pig lose weight

First, we recommend booking a weight check at our Appleby Magna practice. Our nurses will assess your guinea pig’s weight, and tell you how much they need to lose.

Our team can then also give you advice on how to:

  • review your guinea pig’s diet – provide the essentials and give healthier treats.
  • experiment with different ways of feeding – bowl vs scatter feeding and foraging trays.
  • provide sufficient mental stimulation & physical exercise through pet companionship, suitable housing, stimulating activities & items, and time outside their enclosure.

Let our nurses help you get your guinea pig on the right track and book a weight check at our Appleby Magna veterinary practice – see our location and book.

Book a weight check

Christmas foods that are toxic to dogs – a Vet’s guide

November 7, 2021

Should you give your dog human foods like roast dinner, mince pies, Christmas pudding, and trifle? No, is the short answer, as our team of Vets will tell you.

If you think your dog may have eaten something concerning, call us for advice or to arrange emergency care straight away.

Call us on 01530 270 170

Many foods and drinks we consume over Christmas are toxic to dogs. Depending on the item, amount consumed and how long ago, combined with the size and health of your dog, the situation could be life-threatening. To put it into context, a single raisin could potentially kill a dog – they are that toxic.

To help you avoid harmful foods and find treats your dog can have this holiday season, our Appleby Magna Vets have created these lists to help you.

Christmas foods your dog SHOULD NOT eat:

  • Christmas roast dinner – Skinless, plain turkey is fine in small quantities. However, most festive dinners are laden with fat and can include onion (gravy), chives, garlic, pepper, and lots of salt – none of which will do your dog any good. Likewise, your dog shouldn’t chew on cooked bones as these can splinter and damage your pet’s mouth and gut.
  • Pigs in blankets – The sausage meat may contain onion and spices, and along with the bacon will be very fatty. Eating foods high in fat can lead to a painful condition called pancreatitis.
  • Mince pies and Christmas pudding – These usually contain dried fruits like raisins and sultanas, which are highly toxic to dogs and consumption can be fatal.
  • Chocolate – All chocolate is toxic to dogs. However, dark and cooking chocolate are the most toxic as they contain the most theobromine per gram. Call 01530 270 170 immediately and keep the wrapper if they didn’t eat that too.
  • Trifle and other sweet treats – Many dogs are lactose intolerant, and an overdose of dairy cream can cause an upset stomach. Fatty and sugary foods can cause weight, dental, and other health issues so it’s best to just avoid these types of human foods as dog treats.
  • Other harmful Christmas goodies include macadamias and other nuts, bread dough (yeast), cookie dough, grapes, corn-on-the-cob, alcohol, and anything containing Xylitol – an artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs.

Treats your dog CAN have:

  • Dog treats! It might sound simple, but dog treats are typically made to be nutritionally balanced, tasty, and safe for dogs. You can usually buy festive-themed treats at most pet shops in and around Leicestershire, Staffordshire, and North Warwickshire, or make your own!
  • Safe human foods like raw carrots, cucumber, banana, and blueberries, and cooked butternut squash, green beans, and plain pasta in small amounts can make excellent dog snacks. They can also be heathier alternatives to some manufactured dog treats.

Try to remember that your dog won’t love you any less if you don’t give them some of your food, or if you swap cream cakes for carrots. And most importantly, dogs are cunning enough to help themselves if you leave them and food unattended…

Some final tips from our Appleby Magna Vets – Always research new foods online to check they are safe for dogs – if in doubt, leave it out. Give new foods in small amounts first to check they agree with your dog.

If you have any dog food health scares over the festive season, contact us straight away.

See our contact information

Puppy chewing – your questions answered

September 14, 2021

A lot of families in the Appleby Magna area got themselves a puppy over the recent lockdown. Typically, in the run-up to Christmas, even more will join that happy group. However, shortly after that cute furball has arrived you’ll get your first nip from those pin-sharp teeth and next thing you know … the cute furball has destroyed your sofa and your slippers.

Your pup has just entered what we call the ‘Chewing Phase’ and shortly you’ll want the answers to a few common questions. Our head vet Caroline has anticipated your puppy chewing questions and answers the common ones below. Let us know how our tips work out for you and share your own puppy chewing hints & hacks on our Facebook page.

Share your chewing stories


There are four main reasons your puppy will chew. Understand the cause of their chewing and you can quickly plan ways to help them (and you) out.

  1. They are teething. Just like human babies, when your puppy has a new tooth coming in their gums will feel sore, so they chew to ease the pain.
  2. Puppies chew, nip and ‘mouth’ to strengthen their jaw. This is a basic dog behaviour that lasts through to adulthood to keep their jaw muscle strong.
  3. They chew as they learn acceptable social behaviours. They learn from relationships between their actions and the reactions of other dogs (and of course you).
  4. They chew because they are bored.


Longer than you think! Actually, until they are 1 to 2 years old (depending on the breed and personality of your dog). At around 2-3 weeks your pup’s ‘puppy teeth’ emerge. At around 4 months old, adult teeth begin to come through. Then, from 7-12 months, adolescent chewing kicks in as the new teeth settle down and your pub begins to explore the world.

What you can do about puppy chewing

Now you know the causes, here are a few hints and tips to help you manage puppy chewing at home:

1. Puppy proof your home

Prepare for success by putting the chewable things you can out of reach; Slippers, electrical flexes and children’s toys need to be moved if they are to be saved

2. Train them at home

If they chew something they shouldn’t, immediately replace it with something they can. When they have their own object in their mouth, give lots of positive attention. If they nip or mouth you or your clothing, tell them ‘No’, then disengage. A minute later, put their toy in their mouth and start engaging and playing again

3. Learn how to confine them

When you need to go out or be away from your puppy, putting them in a crate or a confined area is important for their safety and development. It also gets them used to being in an area where they can get some downtime.

4. Give them more stimulation

Confinement is not a substitute for your lack of attention. Positive stimulation a socialisation is one of the most important factors in your new pup’s development. When your puppy starts destructive chewing, they’re probably just attention-seeking so lengthen the daily walk (or go out multiple times) and introduce more stimulating activities.

5. Get a few chew toys

Invest in high-quality dog specific chew toys that are built to last. No sticks please and no toys they can destroy and eat (you may need to persevere here). We often have good ones in the surgery, so speak to Lara, or one of the other nurses for their advice on the best ones for your pup.

6. Consider puppy classes

These will teach you and your puppy how to give and react to basic commands. Classes will teach you how to handle and socialise your dog and better still, these sessions will tire them out. One thing you’ll come to learn is that a tired puppy is much less likely to chew your belongings.

Puppy chewing will end

Before you know it, the chewing phase is over and all you’ve got to remember it is half a dozen destroyed slippers. Remember, manage their environment, teach them what’s acceptable and provide lots of the right stimulation. After all, that’s the joy of having a puppy! Right?

STAR Vet Clinic gets honest about cats

September 7, 2021

The natural behaviour of cats can be hilarious, mischievous, loving and annoying in equal measure, as any owner will testify. You only have to look at YouTube or Instagram to see how they amuse and frustrate with their antics.

Whilst we sit back and enjoy the entertainment, every cat lover should ensure their pet stays in peak condition with a regular check-up. If your cat has not seen a vet for a while then why not contact us on 01530 270 170 to book an appointment now?

Book a cat check-up

In the meantime, we’d love to see the fun your cat gets up to. So, we’re inviting you to check-out our list of Ten Truths every cat owner will know below, and share a pic of them living one of these truths on our Facebook page.

Post your ‘Cat Truth’ picture to Facebook

  1. You can have a cat, or houseplants. Not both.
  2. You just have to accept that your sofa is now a scratching post. That’s never going to change.
  3. The one day you walk downstairs barefoot will be the day the cat has left a furball for you to tread on.
  4. If the cat falls asleep on you, you can’t move until it wakes. However long that takes.
  5. When you’re sound asleep, your feet are fair game.
  6. Cats will always prefer the box to the toy.
  7. They won’t often have a mad five minutes, but when they do it’ll be loud. And at 3am when the whole house is asleep!
  8. You no longer have your own food, just what the cat lets you eat.
  9. When they need to vomit, they’ll do it on your most prized possession.
  10. It doesn’t matter how naughty or destructive they’ve been, you’ll always forgive them – and never stop loving them.

Obviously, the above also applies to kittens, only with extra helpings of cuteness.

If you have a new addition to the household, you can make an appointment to register it with STAR Vet Clinic on 01530 270 170. Let’s get a check-up booked in to make sure those endearing moments don’t get interrupted by an unexpected health issue.

Make an appointment for a cat check-up

How long dogs are pregnant and tell-tale symptoms

August 7, 2021

If you are thinking about breeding your female dog for the first time, or there has been an ‘unexpected incident’, you’ll need to know some facts about dog pregnancy.

STAR Vets’ head vet Caroline Ward, is here to help. Read Caroline’s answers to frequently asked questions on the subject, from pet owners in Derbyshire.

Book a dog pregnancy consultation

How did my dog get pregnant? – Besides the obvious ‘birds & bees’ explanation, it’s helpful to know that female dogs can’t get pregnant all the time. An unneutered female’s ‘heat’ season typically starts between 6 – 36 months of age, lasting 3 weeks at a time, about twice a year.

Female dogs ‘in heat’ can be impregnated by an ‘in-tact’ male dog when you least expect it i.e., out on a walk, visiting someone’s home, doggy day-care, and even in your home or garden. Unneutered male dogs are known to stop at nothing to reach a female.

How long are dogs pregnant for? – A dog pregnancy can vary between 56 – 70 days. Typically, puppies should arrive about 63 days (just over 2 months) after conception.

Are there any tell-tale dog pregnancy symptoms? – Like humans, some dogs can suffer from ‘morning sickness’ and will vomit in the early stages of pregnancy. Other early dog pregnancy symptoms can be subtle including changes to appetite, slightly enlarged nipples, clear vaginal discharge, increased tiredness, and more affectionate behaviour.

During the latter stages, expect weight gain, increased appetite, and behaviour changes. Her teats may become darker, stand out more, and produce a semi-clear discharge. An enlarged abdomen with visible puppy movement is a great sign that puppies are on the way.

Can I buy a dog home pregnancy test?

There is no shop-sold home dog pregnancy test available, like those you can buy for humans. One of our experienced vets may use a hormone test, ultrasound, or a physical examination of the abdomen, to confirm whether your dog is pregnant.

How can I prepare for my dog giving birth?

  1. Create a nest: Make a quiet, relaxing, and private space for your dog to give birth and nurse puppies in. Line a large cardboard box or whelping box with puppy pads and clean bedding. Add her own clean toys/bedding to get her used to it.
  2. Prep in advance: Gather clean towels, nail scissors, and small blankets. Microwavable bean bags can provide warmth if you need to move puppies away from mum for any reason.
  3. Talk to our experienced vets: Know the signs of labour and distress to look out for. You should be as hands off as possible, but always there to support and intervene if needed.
  4. Be ready for an emergency: Dogs often give birth at night, and sometimes an emergency caesarean is required. Caroline recommends a) popping our emergency contact information in your phone, b) having transport available, and c) packing anything you’ll need to take with you (wallet, keys, blankets, puppy carrier etc.), in advance.

How long is a dog in labour?

Depending on the number of puppies, labour normally lasts between 3 – 12 hours. When you book your dog pregnancy appointment at our Appleby Magna practice, ask us about the three stages of dog labour.

Think your dog could be pregnant? Book a vet consultation so we can run some tests and help you understand what happens next.

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