Pet Adoption Guide: where to start

Committing to the adoption of a pet is a huge responsibility. As vets, we know how exciting it is to get a new cat or dog, but there are a few questions to ask yourself before bringing home a new furry friend.

Picking the right family member:

Think about how your pet will fit into your life and schedule. Will it be sharing its new home with children or other pets? Do you have a large enough space and active lifestyle for an energetic pet? Will you enjoy tending to grooming needs and devoting time to training?

It’s hard not to get swayed by an adorable puppy face that needs adoption, but think about your lifestyle honestly before taking on such a big commitment; perhaps an older dog, kitten or cat, or rabbit, may be a better fit to welcome into the family.


Where to adopt:

The Sydney area is full of adoption options, and it’s sometimes hard to know where to start. Online reviews, word of mouth, and vet recommendations are a good place to start. Ask questions about the animal’s personality, and check that trials are allowed if you have another pet at home to introduce the new one to.

A few of the rescue groups we recommend at Summer Hill Village Vet are:

Cost considerations:

The purchase price or adoption fee of a new pet is only the tip of the iceberg. The following items need to be included in your budget:

  • Food every day
  • Regular health checks (once or twice a year for most pets)
  • Dental care (dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses)
  • Vaccinations
  • Desexing in the first year
  • Parasite control year round
  • Grooming
  • Bedding, toys, litter, clothes, and accessories
  • Boarding or pet minding fees when you go away
  • Vet bills for accident and illness for their lifetime
  • Pet health insurance (which can reduce vet bills)

Try fostering:

Animals that enter fostering programs not only ease the limited space of most rescue organisations, but it gives you the opportunity to help an animal- even for as little as a week- while trialling if the animal is a good fit for your lifestyle.  If you decide the animal is the perfect addition to your family, you can then make the full commitment of adoption.

Lumps and Bumps: How to Check Your Pet at Home

Did you know that nearly 50% of dogs present with lumps and bumps at their annual health check? Some of the lumps are not of concern, whilst others are an indication of more serious problems. It is so important that lumps are checked early and often, so we want to give you some tips on how to check your pet at home.

Take 5-10 minutes each month to check for lumps, bumps, and swellings.

Pick the same date for each month, mark it on your calendar, and turn your check into a monthly routine. It’s simple and quick, and could be the difference in early detection, treatment, and prognosis.

Check your pet from top to tail.

Your pet will often feel like they are getting a massage from you, and are often happy to let you check. Don’t forget ears, nose, and even inside the mouth. Not sure where to start? Check out Dr Lydia’s short video to help you know where to look.

Follow up with an exam.

Book an appointment with you vet if you noticed anything suspicious. Snip a piece of hair or mark the spot with a marker if you think it will be hard to find again later.

Keep a record of growths.

Use a worksheet of your pet’s silhouette to circle with a black ink pen any suspicious lumps and bumps you’ve found. Now use this same chart the next month to circle with blue pen. Continue monthly to help you keep track of any new or increased growths, and bring the chart to your pet’s next vet visit. Print our Bumps Handout to help you keep track.

Older Pets Just Need a Little Help from Their Friends

We love our pets, and it’s been a joy being with them through the years. They are there for you and you’re noticing that perhaps now, perhaps they need a bit of help from you. As pets get older it’s hard for them to tell you what their changing needs are. I always like to point out that old age is not a disease; pets slow down not just from “getting older,” but because they’re dealing with arthritic joints, or underlying diseases that lead to muscle wastage and weakness. These are things that can be managed, or even treated, to ensure pets aren’t suffering in silence.

What was once the easiest of jumps onto their favourite sleeping spot could now be a daily chore. A ramp or small steps around the house is a good idea to get onto the bed or outside to the toilet. Even just moving their bedding, litter trays, or food and water bowls to more accessible areas in the house is the solution.

Cats especially love being warm, and their heat-seeking behaviour will increase as they get older due to loss of body fat. Pet heat mats and beds ensure your furry friend is kept as toasty as they’d like to be when sitting on you isn’t an option.

Many owners find that their pets are going to the toilet in inappropriate places. Doing a bit of investigative work could let you know that your old cat isn’t naughty, but struggling to get into the litter tray because of creaky old joints. Or your furry senior needs to go more frequently due to underlying medical issues (mainly kidney disease or hormonal disease like hyperthyroidism or diabetes), and hence wants the tray to be cleaned more frequently, or have multiple litter trays. Dogs may need to be let out more frequently. If these issues arise, your vet may recommend a urine and/or blood test to check if these problems can be fixed.

And don’t forget to give them a bit of a once over every month. Check their coats for matts, as some animals just aren’t nimble enough to groom those odd spots anymore. Check their nails as they can be very brittle and wear down more slowly, requiring them to be clipped more frequently. There has been the odd occasion where they grew so much that it curled back into the animal. This is obviously painful for the animal and completely avoidable. And check them all over for lumps and bumps so we can deal with them early if needed.

So, just like our bodies get a bit of wear and tear and needs a bit of extra TLC as we age, so do our beloved pets. It can be so rewarding to see them living full and pain free lives.

My Microchip saved me!

It was a dark and stormy night in mid-August……no, wait, that’s another story.

One evening in mid August, not long before closing time, we received a call from a member of the public who had found a stray dog and wanted to bring him down so we could scan him for a microchip and perhaps locate his owner.

When they arrived, the dog (a Shih Tzu cross) was scanned and did have a microchip.  Given the time, we couldn’t contact the council rangers to collect him so our vet looked up his details on the Companion Animal Register.  He was registered but the contact number was one that blocked incoming calls.  I sent a text message in the hope that would get through and also sent an email to the address on the CAR.  No text came back in response by the time we closed and left for the night, so he had to stay in the clinic overnight to be collected by the council rangers the next day.

When our morning receptionist arrived the next day we had received a response to the email.  The lady sounded very excited and surprised.  She then called us to let us know she would be coming to pick him up and said that he had been missing for two years!!!  The dog (whose name is “QQ”) had obviously been looked after by somebody during that time as he was in good condition.  At least he hadn’t been roaming the streets for two years.

Later that day, a lady walked through the door and I didn’t even need to ask why she was there.  She was literally vibrating with excitement.  As I went out the dog room to get him, I wondered how he would respond to his owner, given that so much time had passed since they last saw each other.

When I led him out to the waiting area, the lady had squatted down and he walked up to her.  He didn’t do anything for a few seconds and then he stood up on his back legs and excitedly started licking her face.  He very obviously recognised her.  Such a great moment.  The lady was crying and if a client hadn’t walked in right at that moment, I would have been having a cry with with her.

The lesson to be taken from this story is the importance of microchipping your pet so if they go missing, they can be reunited with you (hopefully it wouldn’t take two years to happen).  It also highlights the importance of making sure any changes to your contact details are updated on the Companion Animal Register.


Toni our Receptionist was thrilled to be able to write this good news post

Dental Care FAQs

Dental Care: Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Why must my pet undergo anesthesia for a dental cleaning?  Cant the groomer just scrape the tartar off of his teeth?

Tartar is made of bacteria and when it is removed from the surface of the teeth we worry that small pieces could be inhaled by the patient causing a lung infection.  For this reason, “Non-anesthetic” cleaning is NEVER recommended. Anesthesia allows us to place an endotracheal tube in the windpipe to prevent infection of the lungs. Secondly, the most important part of the cleaning is the removal of plaque and tartar under the gumline.  This is just not possible in an awake pet.   And lastly, the teeth are not polished, which will leave the cleaned surface rough and actually increase the adherence of plaque to the teeth

Question:  I am worried about my 13 year old dog undergoing anesthesia for a dental procedure.  Is it possible for a dog to be too old to benefit from professional dental care?

Some people tell us about pets that have had problems or died under anesthesia.  Fifteen or twenty years ago many of these concerns would be valid reasons for not proceeding with an elective procedure in an older pet.  Fortunately, things have changed for pets having anesthesia today.  Contemporary anesthesia is much safer in several ways.

First, pre-anesthetic testing helps us to recognize those pets that are having internal problems that aren’t yet recognizable by their owners at home.  If a problem is found, we can try to resolve it before allowing the pet to undergo anesthesia.

Second, modern inhalant gas is a much safer arrangement than using only injectable agents to achieve an appropriate level of anesthesia.  As mentioned above, the endotracheal tube protects against contamination of the lungs by oral or stomach matter.

Third, monitoring has changed from merely watching to see if the dog is breathing to tracking pulse rate and quality, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, respiratory rate, temperature, and electrical rhythm of the heart.  When pets are being monitored appropriately it allows veterinarians and technicians to detect abnormalities and initiate therapy to avoid anesthetic problems.

Fourth, all pets undergoing dental care now receive fluid therapy by intravenous catheter during anesthesia to maintain vascular volume and blood pressure.  This protects sensitive brain and kidney cells.  We also use thermal support to prevent hypothermia during anesthesia which can change the rate at which drugs are processed.

I know our clients get tired of us saying it but I really believe that age is not a disease, and mature pets that are otherwise healthy are able to tolerate anesthesia well.  A pet that is older is more likely to have more severe periodontal disease and thus more pain.  These animals still need care in order to maintain the quality of their lives.  Taking care of their gums and teeth is also one of the best ways to extend their lifespan.

Question:  Why is cleaning my pets teeth more expensive than cleaning my teeth?  Why is it more expensive than the last time his teeth were cleaned a few years ago?

The cost of dental care for pets has certainly increased as the quality of anesthesia, cleaning, and services have increased.  One example is that we now offer dental radiography, or xrays, which allows us to see the roots and bone surrounding each tooth.  We want to provide safe anesthesia and a service that actually helps to treat pain and prevent progression of disease and to do that we need special equipment like a blood pressure monitor, a fluid pump, and an ultrasonic scaler.  Most of this equipment is not necessary when humans teeth are cleaned because we are not undergoing anesthesia.  Also, remember that usually our hygienist is performing a routine preventative cleaning before hardly any tartar has built up on our teeth.  Pets rarely get dental care this early and thus their cleaning is not a true preventative.

Question:  The doctor has recommended extraction of some of my pets teeth but will he still be able to eat without these teeth?

 Yes.  Our goal in veterinary dental care is for our patients to have mouths free of infection and pain.  It is much better to have no tooth at all than to have an infected tooth with a root abscess or a painful broken tooth.  We have many dog and cat patients that are able to eat a regular diet with few or even no teeth! Sometimes a veterinary dental specialist can offer root canals or more advanced therapy to save teeth.  Our doctors will always offer referral if there is a possibility of saving teeth.

Question:  I cant tell that my pet is in any pain even though he has broken teeth and red inflamed gums.  Wouldnt he stop eating if he was in any pain?

Some pets will stop eating all together when their teeth, bone, and gums hurt badly enough.  The vast majority, however, will find some tactic to keep eating.  They may chew on the other side of their mouths or swallow their kibble whole.  Pets have an extremely strong instinct to survive no matter what discomfort they feel.   Sometimes the symptoms of periodontal disease are so vague that we don’t notice them.  Pets may be reluctant to hold their toys in their mouths, be less playful, resent having their teeth brushed, have a hard time sleeping, or have no outward symptoms at all. Often, after we have treated broken teeth or extracted infected teeth, our patients’ parents tell us that they act more energetic and playful than they have in years!!

Question:  How often should a routine dental cleaning be performed?

Every patient is different so this is a hard question to answer.  Usually the smaller dogs should have their teeth cleaned earlier and more often because their teeth are more crowded in their mouths.  Bigger dogs may not develop tartar as quickly but their mouths should be monitored closely for any broken teeth.  Cats are all individuals and should be examine closely for any excessive gingivitis which may be an indication of some special cat diseases like resorptive lesions or stomatitis/gingivitis syndrome.

Question:  How can periodontal disease hurt my pet?

The possible local (ie in the mouth) effects of periodontal disease are pain, infection of the gums, bone, and/or teeth, and loss of teeth.  Chronic infection of the periodontal tissues allows bacteria to enter the circulatory system resulting in seeding of the internal organs (heart, kidneys, liver) and may lead to serious infections in these organs as well.

Seventeen & Sassy – Meet Freya!

Santa Paws


Apart from the distress and suffering these diseases can cause your pet …

cost of a vaccine – approx. $100 per year, varies with patient species & choice of vaccine

cost of 1 week hospitalisation & intensive care with parvovirus – up to $2,000

cost of antiviral ointments and specialist treatment of eye ulcers from feline herpes virus – up to $1,000

cost of medicines to treat  on-going skin, ear, eye & respiratory infections in an FIV+  cat – easily $300 per year

cost of ……

What’s more, each vaccination appointment at Summerhill Village Vet includes a full vet health check for every pet, which allows us to keep an eye out for any other issues.  By providing an “excuse” to visit for a check-up each year, a vaccination could end up saving your pet’s life in more ways than one.


IMG_0472Apart from saving pets’ lives and their owners from heartache and hefty treatment bills, a vaccination certificate can open doors and make life run more smoothly for pets & owners on the go.  For the protection of the animals in their care, all boarding facilities have strict policies that require proof of vaccination before animals can be booked in. Finding a spot in a good cattery or kennel can be difficult and stressful enough during a busy holiday period or if you have to go into hospital unexpectedly, without being caught out at the last minute for not meeting this requirement. Similarly, doggy day care, grooming parlours and obedience schools usually enforce a vaccination rule too. And for any pets with a bent for globetrotting wanderlust … you guessed it; flying overseas with an airline or pet transport company definitely requires a current vaccination status and Fido and Fluffy will not get far without those all-important antibodies packed safely on board. And for any proud owners with a gorgeous pooch that they’re itching to show off at a dog show, a missing vaccination could be the only thing standing between you and that elusive blue ribbon.


IMG_6401Even for pets who live a sheltered or indoor lifestyle, vaccination is a great way to insure against the unexpected, or worst case scenarios. Despite how secure a property may appear, we hear many stories about stray animals entering peoples’ yards or houses when they are out, potentially bringing in disease. If a pet escapes and runs away, we have little control over where they might go or whom they will meet. If an unvaccinated runaway pet ends up in a shelter or a pound, they could also be vulnerable, because cat flu, kennel cough and parvovirus are often rife in these places.

Patting a neighbourhood cat or dog & then coming home to your pet can also bring home some dangerous viruses, let alone walking in dog poo on the streets.

An isolated pet who isn’t vaccinated and doesn’t meet the wild viruses when out and about doesn’t get their immunity boosted and if they have to go to the Vet because they’re sick or injured they are suddenly put into a high risk environment.


A veterinarian-issued vaccination certificate is all your pet needs as proof of that all-important immune status required by so many pet-care places. As an alternative to obtaining repeated boosters each year, pet owners can also choose to get their pet’s antibody levels, or titre measured and confirmed with a lab report. This report or letter can then be used in lieu of a vaccination certificate.  Up until recently, getting a pet’s titre tested cost more than a booster shot, and also took a lot longer because vets needed to send the sample to a lab. Butthings may be about to change, as a new kit has recently been developed that will allow Aussie vets to test for titres in-house and what’s more, will deliver those results in 20 minutes. “Vaccicheck” tests will be able to test for antibodies for all viruses that the C3 vaccine protects against and may turn out to be a very handy addition for clinics and their clients.


A wide range of vaccine reactions have been observed by pet owners, but the vast majority of them are short-lived and certainly not life-threatening. Complaints such as tiredness, restlessness, sneezing, runny noses, itchy skin or an upset tummy make up the vast majority of vaccine reactions reported to the Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) each year, as well as issues caused by the injection at the site such as pain, swelling, hair loss, small lumps, or abscesses. According to the APVMA, the likelihood of getting any of these signs after a vaccination is about 1 in 20,000 for cats and 1 in 30,000 for dogs, based on recent Australian data. For both species, the chance of a severe reaction is VERY RARE perhaps 1 in 100,000 could entail allergic/anaphylactic reactions, inflammation of the joints, haemolytic anaemia, fluid on the lungs or heart rhythm and blood pressure changes. The good news is that even these severe symptoms are treatable with appropriate emergency care, and are often preventable with a prophylactic (ie. a preventative treatment) such as an antihistamine prior to vaccination, in pets who are known or suspected to have allergic reactions. For this reason, it is not considered best practice to leave a pet unattended following a vaccination.  In terms of the big picture, the risks are very small, and compared with the prospect of a painful death or a lifetime of constant illness from a preventable disease, the choice is not so daunting.


Since the Distemper vaccine was released in the 1960’s, cases of this disease in Australia have dwindled away, to the point where it is virtually eradicated, and most vets practicing today have never even seen a single case. Unfortunately, the war with Parvo has not been quite as successful, as this virus survives much longer in the environment than distemper virus, and spreads so quickly and effectively. One only has to compare a clinic in a low vaccination area to one in a high vaccination area, to see how effective this preventative measure truly is. Without fail, every clinic in an area where vaccinations are neglected, will deal with regular cases of this chilling disease. We are blessed and thankful at Summer Hill that it is rarely a part of our lives and would like to congratulate all of our clients for being so diligent in keeping their pets safe!


thanks to Brigitte Duffield final year Vet student in 2017 for this excellent document!