News and Comments
Herbal and Homeopathic Vet in North Wales & NW England
Natural Pet Care Holistic Vet
  • © 2023 Graham Hines MRCVS - 07903286439 Contact Me 0

Vet's Blog

Graham's Blog

Posts from my Blogger page

Spring Vaccicheck Clinics



Vaccicheck is a brand of Titre Testing for antibodies to Adenovirus (Hepatitis), Parvovirus and Parvovirus in dogs You can read more about it on this page of the site

The Dog's Diner, Moreton, Wirral 13th May 

SATURDAY 18TH MARCH 2023 10am to about 1pm 

Book now £35.00 per dog 

Ring the Diner on use their facebook site to bookThe Dog’s Diner Ltd, Tarran Way North, Moreton Wirral CH46 4UB

0151 678 2588

Orrell lane Groomers LIVERPOOL - Sunday 19th March
Contact Irene Ford 0151 271 9231 25 Orrell Ln, Liverpool L9 8BU
Now Sunday 14th of May 

Imperial Pets,  Chester 17th June 2023

On the A540 Chester High Road, where it joins the A494 (end of M56) near Dunkirk, Chester

Please contact Claire at Imperial Pets to book. You can now book on line /

Tel: 01244 880470
Mobile: 07930 051368



The Effects of Nutrition on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Cats and Dogs:


 Impact on Health and Disease

A new paper published by a team of researchers from the USA reviewed the links between nutrition, functional changes in the microbiome and overall pet health and disease. 

The microbioome are the micro-organisms such as bacteria that live in singer with the most animal in the GI tract

The gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome of cats and dogs is increasingly recognized as a metabolically active organ inextricably linked to pet health as it is in humans.

 Food serves as a substrate for the GI microbiome of cats and dogs and plays a significant role in defining the composition and metabolism of the GI microbiome. The microbiome, in turn, facilitates the host’s nutrient digestion and the production of postbiotics, which are bacterially derived compounds that can influence pet health. 

Consequently, pet owners have a role in shaping the microbiome of cats and dogs through the food they choose to provide. Yet, a clear understanding of the impact these food choices have on the microbiome, and thus on the overall health of the pet, is lacking. Pet foods are formulated to contain the typical nutritional building blocks of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but increasingly include microbiome-targeted ingredients, such as prebiotics and probiotics. 

Each of these categories, as well as their relative proportions in food, can affect the composition and/or function of the microbiome. Accumulating evidence suggests that dietary components may impact not only GI disease, but also allergies, oral health, weight management, diabetes, and kidney disease through changes in the GI microbiome. 

Until recently, the focus of microbiome research was to characterise alterations in microbiome composition in disease states, while less research effort has been devoted to understanding how changes in nutrition can influence pet health by modifying the microbiome function. The review summarises the impact of pet food nutritional components on the composition and function of the microbiome and examines evidence for the role of nutrition in impacting host health through the microbiome in a variety of disease states. Understanding how nutrition can modulate GI microbiome composition and function may reveal new avenues for enhancing the health and resilience of cats and dogs.


Next Vaccicheck Clinics



Saturday Jan 14th 2023 10.00 to 1pm


Our next Titre testing cinic at the Dogs Diner on the Wirral is on the above date.

Ring the Diner on use their facebook site to book

The Dog's Diner Ltd, Tarran Way North, Moreton Wirral CH46 4UB

0151 678 2588

Prices £35.00 per dog

The week after we are doing our first clinic at Imperial Pets near Chester:

Unit 2 Oakwood Farm, Parkgate Road, Chester, (Near the Junction of the A540 and A494 (M56) at Dunkirk)

Saturday 21st of January 2023 Imperial Pets 

Please contact Claire at Imperial Pets to book. /

Tel: 01244 880470
Mobile: 07930 051368


What is Titre Testing?

You can read all about vaccinations and titre testing on the my website at

Basically we will take a blood sample from your pet, take it to our lab and using an antibody test kit measure to see if she has antibodies to Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus. If she has you don't need to vaccinate her. If not it may be advisable.

We use the "Vaccicheck" brand of test kit 

which is described here.

When should I have my dog tested?

  • Leave 3-4 weeks after puppy vaccinations and do then.
  • Before your pets annual vaccine is due
  • Before going to kennels or having treatment

Why should I have my dog tested?

If he has antibodies to a disease he does not need to have a vaccine but you can still rest easy and feel he is safe. Why vaccinate if it is not needed?

Email or phone if you need more information if you want to speak to me.


Evidence for the value and benefits of raw feeding increases...


 I would like to share with you some recent research which I was privileged to hear about on webinars and reading over the past month or so.

Should dogs and cats be fed a high carbohydrate diet?

1. Comparing Wolves and Dogs natural starch consumption

Dogs genomes are different to wolves in a number of aspects including the fact they have genes which allow them to produce amylase (the enzymes which the gut uses to digest starch. Does this mean they can therefore be fed high levels of carbs?

Research has shown that wolves diet consists of approximately 50:50 fat and protein and only 1% starch 

Domestic dogs of a wide variety of sizes and breeds if allowed to self select foods choose to eat 4-7% starch. 

(Feral) Cats naturally eat about 2% starch and natural would choose to avoid more starch if given a free choice.

Wild animals will by the laws of natural selection will eat the foods that give them the best chance of survival.

So why do Commercial cat foods contain as much as 40% starch can we find research to back this up and disagree with the above assumptions. Yes there is a study Hall et al 2018 which found cats would choose t eat more starch than that...

How did they get this figure that is so different - They used as protein sources total un-natural foods such a pea and wheat protein as their food sources because as you can see on the slide and cats like chicken better.
What?!!! Guess who sponsored this research HILLS

There are similar studies in the dog...

Above dogs should to eat less than 10% starch if given the choice and no surprise there is a studies sponsored by H*** Pet Nut*** attempting to dispute this ad again they chose to add to the diet a chicken flavour enhancer to all the diet from which the dogs could chose. They found dogs ate significantly more starchy carbs:

Why do the commercial food guys add carbohydrate? 

1. Its a much cheaper source of calories

2. You need to use starch to bind the kibble and form the dry foods

We have shown dogs and cats would not chose to eat very much starch but is it harmful?

There is increasing evidence to support observations myself and other holistic vets have been seeing for years that pets do much better on a raw based, minimal starch diet or even a cooked home prepared diet if they are balanced of course.

1. a small study compared the number of Toxocara canis egg in dogs fed on raw and processed diet found drastically less worm eggs shed in raw fed dogs:

It would seem the immune system of dogs that are naturally fed are much better able to defend themselves against this intestinal worm. 

A small study on the gene expression of white blood cells - the immune system cells macrophages and found differences in transcriptome expression. Basically within 3 weeks of changing between raw and processed diet there was an increase in inflammatory cell expression. Kibble causes chronic inflammation.

Studies in Finland I think I have written about before show that raw foods are dramatically protective in preventing Canine Atopy Dermatitis CAD in dogs fed a raw diet in the pre-natal period. The lowest levels of CAD in young adults was in the cohort in which the dam was raw fed and pups weaned on to raw food with intermediate level were pups were raw fed soon post weaning.

In other words an ultra processed carbohydrate based diets are a major risk factor in CAD 

(Atopy is inflammation of the skin caused by allergy and extremely common in practice.~)


Newer studies I think are getting us a step closer - it's the microbiome. There are dramatic differences in the bacterial populations in the gut and stool of raw fed low starch diets. There are increases in the variety of bacteria found in raw fed animals.

There are dramatic changes in the numbers and types of bacteria in not only the faeces but also the skin microbiome. We do not know what each type of bacteria does as yet and there is a lot more to learn. 

I will tell you more as I learn it.

Anti raw campaigners will use figures such as an increase in E. Coli spp. & Clostridium spp to berate raw and cite it as evidence raw is dangerous. But there are many sub-species or strains of these bacteria and increasing evidence in fact increased levels of clostridiceae is associated with faecal health and low faecal volume and a healthy microbiome.

The other measure is of the metabolome - chemicals in the body -  Kibble fed dogs have higher levels of methionine and cystathionine chemicals associated with inflammation and bile acids are higher which has in man been associated with colon cancer.

Another small study measured transcriptome in the skin of a small number of Staffies comparing the raw fed to the kibble fed and there are some evidence of an improved immunity and reduced oxidative stress

Most of these studies are very small numbers of animals and of course will be criticised by Big Kibble - Mars, Pedigree , Nestle and other pet food manufactures. 

The micro biome research is very new and I am sure we will learn more over the next few years to support our observations in practice.

If you want to read more then may I suggest reading my Irish Colleague Conor Brady's excellent book

The RFVS Raw Feeding Veterinary Society

We are trying to sponsor our own research into the benefits/risks of Natural Feeding to be able to challenge Big Kibble if you can donate anything please do

Donation Page

References - see images and more available on request.

D. Knueven DVM (personal communication )


Coconut Oil - Is it good for your Dog?


 Coconut oil is a fashionable addition to the diets of both people and there pets. 

Is it good for your dog? NO stick to an species appropriate diet

Not according to these researcher. Unless your pets microbiome is used to these forms of oil it can cause more problems than it helps.

Have a listen to this youtube interview:

You can really upset the delicate balance of your pets gut flora and cause inflammatory chemical to leak out of the gut with coconut oil and many other novel foods which pets are not used to or evolved to consume. Read more about the microbiome on my website.

The microbiome is the population of micro-organisms which live along side us in or gut and elsewhere and I think is the reason a raw diet helps so many of my patients.


Raw Feeding Research an Update


 This weekend I attended a seminar on raw feeding from  RAW FEEDING VETERINARY SOCIETY

I would like to share some of the results with you

Raw Feeding and Allergies

Vets who advocate Raw Feeding will confirm that they see a reduction in the severity of skin allergy (atopic dermatitis) and IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Diseases) when they change a dog onto a raw diet.

This has been confirmed in research presented to the conference by a Finish Group led by Anna Hielm-Björkman DVM, PhD in Finland 

When a breeding bitch is fed a raw diet and her puppies are fed raw for the first few months of life the incidence of Canine Atopic dermatitis is 3 times 300% less likely to occur. There are other factors such as genetics but diet has a huge affect.

Similar results abut the development of IBD in later life is found

You can have a look at the studies at 

Anna and her team run DOG RISK in Finland and need funds to improve the data and run more studies. If you feel you can donate so we can gain more evidence to fight back against Mars Nestle and the like please make a small donation


Should you neuter your pet? New study shows how complex the decision is.


Neutering (including spaying) of male and female dogs in the first year after birth has become routine in the U.S. and much of Europe, but recent research reveals that for some dog breeds, neutering may be associated with increased risks of debilitating joint disorders and some cancers, complicating pet owners' decisions on neutering. 

 The joint disorders include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture, and elbow dysplasia. 

 The cancers include lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma Neutering previous studies on the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd Dog, neutering before a year of age was associated with increased risks of one or more joint disorders, 2–4 times that of intact dogs 
 There were major breed differences in vulnerability to neutering, both with regard to joint disorders and cancers. In most cases, the caregiver can choose the age of neutering without increasing the risks of these joint disorders or cancers. 
 Small-dog breeds seemed to have no increased risks of joint disorders associated with neutering, and in only two small breeds (Boston Terrier and Shih Tzu) was there a significant increase in cancers. To assist pet owners and veterinarians in deciding on the age of neutering a specific dog, guidelines that avoid increasing the risks of a dog acquiring these joint disorders or cancers are laid out for neutering ages on a breed-by-breed and sex basis.


from Avidog 

Certainly I recommend you DO NOT have a larger breed dog >25kg adult weight neutered until she is fully developed physically - which can be well over a year

Consider sterilisation: vasectomy or surgery to remove uterus but not the ovaries if you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies 


Raw Hide Chews, Dentastix and other treats


Raw Hide Chews - Perhaps the Most Dangerous Chew on the Planet

This diagram shows how they are made - they are really processed leather

How can one of the most popular chew sticks on the planet be so dangerous for your pets, you ask?

I mean, most dogs chew on rawhide for hours on end, and not only does it keep them busy, but they seem to last forever.

Well if you understood what it took to make this toxic “raw” leather stick, you would quickly understand what the problem is.

Aside from the horror stories circulating all over social media these days, of pets needing emergency surgery after consuming rawhide, the majority of pet parents today, especially the newbies, believe that this chew is some sort of dried up meat stick.

Let me debunk that myth right away!

A rawhide stick is not the by-product of the beef industry nor is it made of dehydrated meat. Rather, rawhide is the by-product of the “Leather Industry”, so theoretically it is a leather chew.

How It’s Made

“Producing rawhide begins with the splitting of an animal hide, usually from cattle. The top grain is generally tanned and made into leather products, while the inner portion, in its “raw” state, goes to the dogs.”

So, how does this leather, which is conveniently rolled up into pretty shapes, actually get made into those rawhide chews?

Follow along my friends and I will enlighten you on how this hide travels through a leathery process where it transforms from hide to a not-so beautiful, colorful, chew stick. Here is a paraphrased tutorial that was explained by the whole dog journal several years back:

STEP 1: To The Tannery

Normally, cattle hides are shipped from slaughterhouses to tanneries for processing. These hides are then treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage.

(No one wants to purchase a black, spoiled rawhide stick!)

Once at the tannery: the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulphide liming. This process will help strip the hair and fat that maybe attached to the hides themselves.

(No, no one wants to see a hairy hide…)

Next on this glorious journey, these hides are then treated with chemicals that help “puff” the hide, making it easier to split into layers.

The outer layer of the hide is used for goods like car seats, clothing, shoes, purses, etc. But, it’s the inner layer that is needed to make the rawhide. (Oh and other things like gelatin, cosmetics, and glue as well!)

STEP 2: Cleansed In Chemicals

Now that we have the inner layer of the hide, it’s time to go to the post-tannery stage! Hides are washed and whitened using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and/or bleach; this will also help remove the smell of the rotten or putrid leather.

When I was involved in Port Health work in London Ports we would regularly test chews and find Salmonella and reject them, perhaps this is why they treat so throughly

STEP 3: Make It Look Pretty

Now it’s time to make these whitened sheets of this “leathery by-product” look delicious! So, here is where the artistic painting process comes in.

“Basted, smoked, and decoratively tinted products might be any color (or odor) underneath the coating of (often artificial) dyes and flavors. They can even be painted with a coating of titanium oxide to make them appear white and pretty on the pet store shelves.” –

“…the Material Safety Data Sheet reveals a toxic confection containing the carcinogen FD&C Red 40, along with preservatives like sodium benzoate. But tracking the effects of chemical exposure is nearly impossible when it’s a matter of slow, low-dose poisoning.”–

Ok, now that these hides have been painted, it’s time for the final process.

Think this is bad? Check out what’s in your dog’s kibble… Click here!

STEP 4: Getting It To Last Forever!

When tested: Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Chromium salts, Formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals have been detected in rawhides.

So it’s safe to say that any sort of glues can be used as well!

Finally, it’s time to package and attach all the glorious marketing labels to the product.

Check out the fine print warning that’s attached with some of these rawhides:
Choking or blockages. If your dog swallows large pieces of rawhide, the rawhide can get stuck in the esophagus or other parts of the digestive tract. Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove them from the stomach or intestines. If it isn’t resolved, a blockage can lead to death.

(Oh, how lovely…)

And there it is! It’s now ready to be shipped to store shelves where it can be purchased for our loving animal companions.

How do proactive veterinarians feel about these chews?

Dr Becker:

“The name ‘rawhide’ is technically incorrect. A more accurate name would be processed-hide, because the skin isn’t raw at all. But the term “rawhide” has stuck.

Rawhide chews start out hard, but as your dog works the chew it becomes softer, and eventually he can unknot the knots on each end and the chew takes on the consistency of a slimy piece of taffy or bubble gum. And by that time your dog cannot stop working it — it becomes almost addictive.

At this point, there’s no longer any dental benefit to the chew because it has turned soft and gooey, and, in fact, it has become a choking and intestinal obstruction hazard.”

P.S. Ready for the jaw dropper?

In the USA an investigation by Humane Society International stated in their report, “In a particularly grisly twist, the skins of brutally slaughtered dogs in Thailand are mixed with other bits of skin to produce rawhide chew toys for pet dogs. Manufacturers told investigators that these chew toys are regularly exported to and sold in the US


Let the picture do the talking:

So what is safe, healthier?

the treats

Have a look at our range of healthier treats.


Raw Feeding Veterinary Society: Benefit, Bugs, Balance and Bones


Many and varied are the arguments presented against Biologically Appropriate Raw Diets for Pets.

It is worth looking behind those arguments for vested interest. The RFVS has produced a brilliant rebuttal of those criticisms which you can find by following the link here.

As a veterinary surgeon I have been advising Raw Feeding for over 15 years, to the benefit of of our patients, and would never go back.

These are reason, researched arguments for feeding BARF diets to our cats and dogs.



How to make Golden Paste


This is the basic recipe to make golden paste for yourself or your pet

Basically we have the herb Tumeric, with some black pepper which helps it to be absorbed from the intestine and some healthy oils. Use for arthritis in particular and to boost the immune system perhaps if cancer is a problem in your companion.


  • 125 ml / 60g turmeric powder
  • 250 ml plus extra water in reserve, if needed
  • (70 ml) coconut oil (use raw, unrefined, cold-pressed)
    OR linseed oil (flaxseed)
    OR olive oil (use virgin / extra virgin)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked (ground) black pepper
  • Omit pepper if you cannot tolerate it. The absorption of turmeric will still be improved by cooking it and adding oil, but it will be less effective without the pepper.

    Cracked pepper and ground pepper refer to the same thing. How finely it's ground is up to the user. If you like to have crunchy bits of pepper in your golden paste, then grind it less finely. If you don't (and that's probably most of us), grind it more finely.


1) Bring the turmeric and water to a boil in a saucepan, then lower heat and simmer until you have a thick paste. This should take about 7-10 minutes and you may need to add the extra water along the way for good consistency.

2) Add the freshly cracked (ground) pepper and oil AFTER cooking, when it has been removed from heat and cooled down (still warm to touch but not burning), about 10 minutes later.

3) Stir in well to mix the oil in everywhere and allow to cool again (if coconut oil is hard, it should melt in the mixture).

Do not use pre-made pepper meal (pre-ground pepper that you buy for pepper shakers). The active ingredient in black pepper (piperine) is oxidised when exposed to the air and also degraded by light, so not much is left in the pre-ground pepper purchased in the store.

Start with 1/4 of a teaspoon, twice a day (with food and water), and build up to 3 - 4 times a day, for the first 4-5 days.

If you need more effect, increase to 1/2 - 3/4 of a teaspoon 3 - 4 times a day depending on the size of the patient. You don't need much. Some people and larger dogs move on to a full teaspoon for even more effect. See what your body needs and feed small amounts routinely to keep it in your system. 

When adding turmeric to the diet for the first time, if there are any signs of loose stools or upset stomach then you may wish to reduce your serving to 1/8 tsp or so, and remain at a lower amount for a longer period. It will eventually pass and your gut microbiome will soon benefit.

It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or you can freeze it and thaw a bit at a time.

Some dogs may smell a little like cat pee after starting Golden Paste. We're not exactly sure why, but it will eventually go away. One way to eliminate or at least reduce the odor is to add Ceylon cinnamon to the golden paste.

Keep up to date with news and offers
© Graham Hines
Graham Hines MRCVS
Dee View Road, Connah's Quay
Flintshire, CH5 4AY
and Moreton Wirral
Tel:(+44) 07903268439
Stacks Image 23

The site uses Cookies in order to improve your experience on subsequent visits. Please dismiss this message to indicate you are happy with this. We duo not share your details with anyone