The golden rule of health care is to get veterinary advice sooner rather than later – illness is best treated as quickly as possible. If l am at all worried about a dog I consult my vet, and never grudge the cost of timely reassurance. Better safe than sorry. Symptoms of illness include vomiting. diarrhoea or constipation. running nose and/or eyes, lameness, inflamed skin, itchiness, lack of usual vitality, pain on being touched (difficult to spot in a Border), rubbing the head on the ground, raised or low temperature, panting or shivering for no reason, increased thirst, loss of appetite, dramatic loss of weight, pink whites to tile eye, swollen glands in the neck, an arched back or tucked-up stomach, an abnormal smell of either the breath or the dog. Reporting any of these symptoms, or other noticeable abnormalities, will assist the vet in diagnosis.


A simple first aid kit should cover dealing with minor ailments and administering simple first aid in an emergency until the vet sees the dog. Mine contains: Animal thermometer; Bandages; Roll of adhesive tape; Lint; Scissors; Tweezers; Disinfectant liquid; TCP or salt and water instead; A skincure ointment (containing sulphur, boric acid, zinc oxide, cade oil, salicylic acid); Tube of antiseptic ointment; Tube of eye ointment; Liquid paraffin; Glucose; Bitter Apple spray; Small lumps of washing soda; Antiseptic powder containing zinc oxide and boric acid; Thermal type vet bed; Hot-water bottle; Honey; Apis Mel homoeopathic tablets; Arnica homoeopathic tablets.


It is helpful to know the temperature of an unwell dog before telephoning the vet. The normal temperature is 101.5 degrees F or 38.5 degrees C. A puppy up to six months of age may have a slightly higher temperature. The animal thermometer should have a round-ended bulb. Always disinfect the thermometer before and after use. Having shaken the mercury down, insert the bulb into the dog’s rectum, making sure that the dog remains standing throughout, while holding the thermometer with the other hand. Leave the thermometer in for at least one minute to obtain the correct reading. Electronic thermometers are also available from Chemists and Supermarkets, please check the suitability of any products before use.


Following an operation, an accident, a mauling at work or a fight, a dog may suffer from shock. Keep the patient warm by lying the dog on a thermal-type vet bed or blanket and cover the dog with a towel or coat. Place a warm, not hot, hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel against the dog’s back. Give a sip of glucose and water, if the dog can take this, or wipe a little on the tongue and gums at intervals, if not. Give one arnica tablet as soon as possible, followed by another two hours later.

(includes an extract from “Border Terriers Today” by kind permission of Anne Roslin-Williams)