Enabling everyone to safely benefit from our visits is obviously our absolute priority.
So in the same way as experts in dog temperament and behaviour provide our temperament assessment requirements and assessments, our Chief Veterinary Advisor, Dr Tim Nuttall, is a veterinary surgeon, specialist in small animals and diseases that can transfer from dogs to humans, has created our health and wellbeing requirements for Friendship Dogs.
Our guidelines also incorporate the requirements of the Royal College of Nursing and Public Health England, advice issued by Public Health Scotland, US Centres for Disease Control, as well as the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and equivalent bodies from Europe, Canada and the US.
1. Six Monthly Health Check: A general health check by a vet is recommended at least once every six months, and more frequently if they have on-going problems.
2. Worming: A monthly (in most cases but product dependant) veterinary-approved wormer specific to preventing worms that can pose a health risk to humans e.g. Toxocara and Echinococcus Granulosus.
Faecal worm egg counts may be done as an alternative to worming but they would need to be done monthly and the FEC result must be zero.
3. Fleas, Mites and Ticks: Year-round preventative treatment for fleas, mites and ticks with a veterinary-approved product at appropriate intervals. Several safe, convenient and reliable products provide combined protection – please discuss the options and intervals with your vet.
4. Vaccinations: In addition to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) vaccinations for core diseases – e.g. parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis – at intervals recommended by your vet – Wag & Company Friendship Dogs must be vaccinated annually with the Leptospirosis L4 vaccine which is just as safe as the L2 vaccine but which affords greater protection.
Titre Testing is an acceptable alternative to vaccination for the core diseases. Titre testing requires your dog to have a blood test which is then tested for immunity against the core diseases. This is an acceptable alternative to those core vaccinations. However, there is no such test for Leptospirosis so all Friendship Dogs must be vaccinated annually for Leptospirosis.
Kennel Cough Vaccinations: If a Friendship Dog has been given a live intra-nasal vaccination with Bordetella, they will have to wait for six weeks after vaccination before they visit again. There is a small risk the bacteria could be passed on to vulnerable people.
5. Feeding: Dogs should be fed a good quality nutritionally balanced diet. Friendship Dogs cannot be fed raw meat or offal because they carry a risk of infection from the carriage and shedding of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Elderly and vulnerable individuals are more at risk of infection from these organisms and so the potential consequences – however low the risk – are too high. The guidance for visiting in medical establishments largely now completely prohibits therapy animals fed on raw meat and it is our responsibility to ensure everyone is safe and comply.
Cooking the meat before feeding is obviously a solution.
6. General Health Management: If you are unsure about your pet's health or welfare, for any reason, you should postpone the visit until you have had a chance to consult your vet. For instance, please postpone visits and consult your vet if your pet:
- Is unwell or 'out of sorts' for any reason
- Shows signs of vomiting or diarrhoea – even if he or she seems otherwise to be well
- Is limping or showing other signs of pain
- Is itchy or develops skin or ear disease
- Shows any odd behaviour or changes in temperament
- If your dog is an un-neutered female and is on heat or in-season
If you have any questions about our veterinary guidance, Tim is happy to help, just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.