Month: December 2017

Proper snow – Sawbridgeworth pet photography

I was very happily surprised to wake up last Sunday morning to a decent amount of snow. Quite often when snow is predicted I get excited and wake up to what can only be described as a light dusting. This time is was Proper snow! So why at 37 was I so excited about the snow? Well you see Layla, my whippet, was born in spring 2013 and the last proper snow we had was in January of that year, so this was her first proper snowfall.

To celebrate, Layla and I met up with Frejya, and her mum Tracy, and we went out over the fields for the dogs to have a good, vigorous playing/running session. My village is beautiful on a normal day, but it’s stunning in the snow. I love how the powdery snow clings to the branches, making them heavy so they droop, the whole environment looks magical.

Farnham village lane in the snow

Layla and Frejya like to have a good run at the best of times, but with this snow being a first for both dogs the excitement on the way to the field was palpable and we nearly ended up on our arses on a few occasions! Thankfully, we reached the field still standing and the girls were let which point it became a free for all, and they ran off at full speed!

Layla nd Frejya running full speed through the snow - 4 legs photography

As a pet photographer, when I take continuous shots I get to capture the minute conversations that go on between dogs, and sometimes the body language can be fascinating other times it show just how controlled they can be with their mouths. So much energy and barging, yet never a nip and rarely an injury or cross word between the two.

smiling happy dogs

They really are the best of friends!

While out, we were lucky enough to bump into a neighbour with her dogs, Belle a Newfoundland x Lab, and Dotty a Springer x Basset.

Belle - Newfoundland x Lab
Dotty - Spaniel x Bassett

They too are the best of friends and I was lucky enough to capture the close relationship they have.

Belle and Dotty playing in the snow - Bishops Stortford Pet Photogarphy
A quick glance at the camera mid zoomie!

A quick glance at the camera mid-zoomie!

I really love what I do and am honoured to be able to capture the beautiful friendships between dogs, and the relationships between them and their beloved human family. Days like this make me appreciate what I have and get excited for the adventures of next year.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy 2018.

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Foods to watch out for with a dog at Christmas….and why

Undoubtedly we’ve all seen lists of poisonous foods for dogs - but have you ever wondered why and, if they do eat any, how much is too much? Maybe it’s the nerd in me, but when someone tells me I can’t do something I want to know why….so I went and found out, and now I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you. This is an unusually long post for me, but I think the information is useful to know.


We all know that you can’t feed a dog (or cat!) chocolate, yet they seem to find it as enticing as we do! I know of one dog in particular that is well known by her vet due to her LOVE of chocolate, and her ability to open a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and leave the wrapper undamaged!

So why can’t they eat it? Well, it’s got two toxic stimulants in it called Theobromine, and caffeine, which are substances in the category methylxanthines, which act on the nervous system. When dogs have too much it causes a wide variety of symptoms. The severity of these symptoms depends on the amount and type of chocolate eaten, yet the symptoms of theobromine poisoning can take up to 6-12 hours to develop.

Toxic doses of theobromine are reported to be as low as 20 mg/kg, where agitation, hyperactivity and gastrointestinal signs (such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhoea - all which may smell like chocolate) can be seen. At doses over 40 mg/kg, cardiac signs can be seen, and include a racing heart rate, high blood pressure, or even heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). At doses of more than 60 mg/kg, neurologic signs can be seen, including tremors, twitching, and even seizures. Fatalities have been seen at around 200 mg/kg, or when complications occur. (source:

Should your dog eat any chocolate, I’d advise a phone call to the vet (with a view to getting them to be sick) the best thing you can do is get the chocolate out of their system before it has a chance to do any damage.

A chocolate toxicity calculator, which can be found here, can be helpful to give an idea of how much is too much for your particular dog. White chocolate has minimal theobromine, whereas dark chocolate or cocoa powder has very high levels and only a little can cause big problems. This also includes products made with the cocoa powder or chocolate not just the raw ingredients.

chocolate cake - poisonous foods for dogs


I never fully understood the problem with grapes, after all, before the internet gave us such freedom of information we used to feed our German Shepherd a few grapes every night and he loved them! I think back now in horror at what could have happened, but we didn’t know any better – which is part of the reason for me writing this blog.

The thing is, grapes aren’t harmful to all dogs and according to my vet they aren’t really sure why. They tell me that it is as random as 1 grape for a huge St Bernard could be fatal, while a Chihuahua would come away completely unaffected having had 2 or 3 (this is an example only and not a reflection of a breed’s tolerance to grapes). Whether your dog is susceptible to grape poisoning is wholly unpredictable.

The toxic ingredient in grapes is currently unknown although, whatever it is, it causes kidney failure in susceptible animals. Raisins, currants and sultanas, all being the dried forms of grapes, seem to have a greater concentration of this unknown toxic chemical and are more likely to cause severe symptoms.

Christmas items to avoid include, Christmas cake, Christmas Pudding, Mince pies and those lovely cheeses with dried fruits in! My whippet, Layla, was rushed down the vet last Christmas after I caught my mum (who knows about dogs and grapes/sultanas etc.) giving her a piece of ‘fancy’ cheese, she mistook a golden sultana in the cheese for a piece of apricot. Thankfully I saw it happen (if not too late to stop it) and called the vet who had me take her to the surgery immediately so she could be made to throw it up. So you see, even those in the know can be caught out and it just pays to be a bit vigilant if you give your dogs any Christmas cheese!

Dog and cat begging


Onions are another readily eaten human food that is bad for dogs. I’ve always worried, not knowing whether a sliver stolen off the floor is going to cause an issue, or whether it takes the consumption of a whole onion to cause an issue.

It seems onions (along with leeks, garlic and chives) contain two substances, Thiosulfate and organosulfur, which are toxic to dogs. Dogs do not have the necessary enzymes to digest them and, as a result, ingestion causes them to be metabolized into highly reactive oxidants. These oxidants attach to the red blood cells, damaging them and causing anaemia.

In small doses, symptoms are generally vomiting and diarrhoea. In large doses symptoms include drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy with pale gums, red/rusty coloured urine, rapid heartbeat, weakness, abdominal pain and exercise intolerance. Please bear in mind that these more severe symptoms may take days to manifest after the initial consumption.

It is more dangerous for a dog to eat small amounts of onion regularly than one big amount (that is treated) as smaller amounts over time can still eventually lead to anaemia. It is also noted that Japanese breeds such as Akitas and Shiba Inus are particularly susceptible to onion poisoning due to their different blood chemistry. (Source:

It has been recorded that 15 -30 g/kg can cause significant changes in a dog’s blood. Ingestion of more than 0.5% of their bodyweight in onions, at one time, causes toxicity. Toxicity occurs whether the onions are raw/fresh, cooked or dried/powdered. So do be aware of the food you share with your dogs.

If you know your dog has eaten onions then the best thing to do, as with the majority off food related poisons, is to make your dog sick. Vets recommend that they should be made sick within the first hour (2 hours max) of ingestion to reduce the changes of any complications occurring. Your vet will induce vomiting, to remove the onion from your dog’s system, and then give them activated charcoal to help mop up and stray toxic chemicals that may have been already digested, with the added benefit of it helping to reduce allergic reactions.

Onions, particularly poisonous food for Shiba Inus

Macadamia Nuts

The wonderfully, buttery macadamia nut is making its way into more and more of our festive nut selections this year and although non-fatal, macadamias are toxic to dogs. The substance that causes problems is not known, but symptoms usually occur within 12 hours of ingestion and include weakness, depression, vomiting, ataxia (problems with balance and coordination), tremors, and/or hyperthermia (high temperature). Symptoms are usually seen when 2.4g/kg of body weight is ingested (eg 24g of nuts for a 10kg dog) and usually resolve in 12-24 hours. If your dog does consume macadamias then it is unlikely to be fatal, but I think you are both in for a rough night!

Xylitol - Artificial Sweetener

Xylitol is a natural sweetener (a sugar alcohol) and is a dentist’s friend in the battle of tooth decay…unfortunately the same cannot be said for a dogs! Xylitol, even in small doses, is very poisonous to dogs and some say is 100 times more toxic than milk chocolate. Many dogs die each year after eating Xylitol containing chewing gum, but the sweetener is making its way into more and more human foods including chewy vitamins and peanut butter.

For a dog, ingesting Xylitol causes a rush of insulin which causes blood sugar levels to fall sharply, which can ultimately lead to coma and death. It has also been noted that it can also cause liver failure. Symptoms can be seen within 30 minutes but may not manifest for up to 18 hours depending on what the Xylitol was in (the delayed symptoms is seen in slow release items like chewing gum). Liver problems can be seen in bloodwork after 8-12 hours with symptoms as late as 24-48 hours. (source:

Less than 0.1 gram is enough to cause a dog serious problems which, for many dogs, is just one small piece of sugar free chewing gum.

If you believe your dog has ingested Xylitol, in any of its forms, then you need to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. They will make your dog sick but are unlikely to use activated charcoal as it seems it does not work on Xylitol. They will, in all likelihood, need to be admitted to make sure that their condition remains stable and they are well monitored for signs of deterioration.

As Xylitol is such a toxic substance to dogs I play safe and I won’t have it in the house. I am very careful to check that any chewing gum I have, even if it stays in my bag, is Xylitol free.

I realise that this is somewhat of an information packed post, but for years I have been told I can’t give my dogs certain foods. Rarely are we told what the toxic levels are of them eating a certain substance and I have come to realise that some things, like Xylitol and grapes, are an immediate trip to the vets, while with chocolate and onions there is something of a sliding scale of severity.

I hope you have found this information helpful and it leaves you better prepared to cope should you find your dog consuming any of these foods/substances, whether at Christmas or anytime in the future.

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Posted by 4 Legs Photography in Uncategorised