Taking your pet's temperature

Taking your pet’s temperature

The only way to determine if your pet has a fever is to use a thermometer. We show you how to do this with a few quick and easy steps to help you take your pet’s temperature safely and accurately.

How to take your dog or cat’s temperature using a thermometer

  • We suggest using a little Vaseline or lubricant on the end of the thermometer to make it easier to insert
  • Try to keep your pet calm, and offer a treat to distract them, so that your pet has a positive experience
  • It may be helpful to have an assistant to stroke the pet over the back and support them with a hand under the abdomen to ensure they are standing
  • As a preparation, touch the anal opening gently with the thermometer before inserting it about 1-1.5 cm
  • Digital thermometers typically beep when the reading is complete, which may take 5 or more seconds

The normal temperature for dogs and cats is about 38.3 degrees celsius at rest.

Posted in Pet
Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats

Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats?

Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats?

Do you feed your pet chicken? Most dogs and cats love the taste of chicken and it is a favourite for many. However, there are a few safety factors to keep in mind when giving them chicken.

Cooked chicken and other recipes

It is tempting to let dogs and cats taste a piece of chicken, or have leftovers, from meals that we have cooked for ourselves and our families. It is important to remember that some everyday spices used in cooking chicken can irritate a dog’s stomach, resulting in symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. In this case, it is better to scrape off any spices before giving it to your dog. Why not cook a separate piece for your dog without any spices? Alternative ideas include making a plain salt-free chicken broth or soup, and including rice. Remember to weigh the amount of food you give your pet everyday. This ensures that you provide a consistent and balanced diet specific to their weight and activity, helping to avoid them becoming overweight.

Drumsticks and bones

Compared to chicken breast, which contains no bones, parts of a whole chicken, such as the thighs or wings, can pose a serious risk to dogs. This is because pieces can get stuck in a dog’s throat, stomach or the intestine. When the bones are crunched, it creates sharp ends which can pierce the delicate walls of the digestive system. Cooked bones are more brittle, and therefore shatter more easily than raw bones, however both pose a risk. If you feed raw chicken legs as part of your dog’s diet, it is advisable to supervise their meal times. If your pet has eaten chicken bones then keep an eye out for blood in their stool.

Many dogs are eager to eat and, if they eat very quickly, there is also a risk that chicken legs could get stuck in the dog’s throat. We would recommend preparing your dog’s food safely to avoid these risks. Read our article for advice on how to help your dog to slow their eating and make the most out of meal times.

Raw chicken

If you feed raw chicken, it is important to be aware that the chicken can contain bacteria that can make a dog or cat unwell. For example, chicken may contain SalmonellaCampylobacter or ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase) bacteria that carry resistance genes to certain antibiotics. These are also potentially dangerous to humans. Good hygiene is therefore essential when handling raw chicken, or feeding it to your pet. Food bowls and surfaces that the dogs have eaten from should be disinfected after the dog has finished eating. If your dog is currently receiving a course of prescribed antibiotics, it may be a good idea not to feed raw chicken or similar raw food, until after the treatment course is finished. This is because bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics.

Dried chicken treats

There is a huge range of dog treats with dried chicken available, which many dogs love. When using training aids or feeding treats, we would recommend reducing some of their allocated daily food allowance in order to avoid excess calories and over-feeding your dog. When selecting treats for your dog, it is important to avoid those that contain additives or preservatives, and to always provide your dog with access to plenty of fresh water. If your dog shows signs of dehydration, increased thirst or urination, or they are off colour, always seek veterinary advice.

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This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet
Help! My dog gets travel sickness

Help! My dog gets travel sickness

Travel sickness, also called car or motion sickness, can affect pets as much as humans. Any form of travel can trigger travel sickness- dogs may shake, drool, yawn excessively, vomit and in some cases urinate or defecate. The association between the car and sickness often makes dogs afraid of the car. Luckily there are plenty of things you can try to help your dogs as well as travel sickness tablets which can be prescribed by your vet. Read our advice here.

What causes travel sickness in puppies and dogs?

The mechanism for motion sickness is not fully understood. The generally accepted theory is that when there is a mismatch between the brain’s input from the eyes and the middle ear (vestibular system) it triggers the vomiting centre of the brain. This is why, for humans, starting at the horizon as a stable point of reference can help. Car sickness is more common in puppies and thankfully many dogs outgrow their motion sickness as they get older.

What are the signs of travel sickness in dogs?

Early signs of stress/car sickness in dogs include; panting, whining, vocalising, excessive yawning, drooling, pacing and restlessness. This can progress to vomiting and in some cases urinating and defecating. If your dog associates the car with feeling sick they are naturally going to become fearful of getting in the car. This anxiety can be enough to cause sickness before the car has started moving. Preventing travel sickness also involves tackling this anxiety.

How can I stop my dog from getting travel sick?

  • Face your dog forward – facing forward in the back seat is the best option. It is a legal requirement that your dog is secured in the car, both for your safety and that of your dog. If your dog travels in the front make sure the passenger side airbag is off and that the passenger seat is as far back as possible

  • Fresh air – open a window to allow air to circulate

  • Position them so that they can see out the window – much like us having a point of reference outside the car can help. You may need to provide a cushion or booster seat to raise small dogs up

  • Don’t feed your dog at least 2 hours before a car journey – having a full stomach makes nausea more likely

  • Distraction – offering a special car trip toy which only comes out on car journeys can help take their mind off the journey

  • Keep the car cool and quiet – calming music may help

  • Try using a calming scent – products such as Adaptil and Pet Remedy have been shown to have a calming effect. Alternatively a blanket from home may make them feel more secure

  • Behavioural modification/ training – For some dogs the fear of the car (and the association with vomiting) can be enough to cause vomiting before the journey has even started. For any dog showing fear of the car-training can help (see below)

  • Medication – your physical vet will be able to provide motion sickness tablets but these are not recommended for regular journeys and should only be used for a maximum of 2 days in a row. Don’t be tempted to use human medication for your dog as this can be dangerous

How can I help my dog like the car?

Helping your dog like the car is a gradual process, don’t expect instant results but over time perseverance pays off. If you have a dog who is extremely fearful or the measures below don’t seem to be working consider seeking help from a behaviourist- look for behaviourists who are accredited by a recognised body such as Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB) or Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

  • Preparation – if possible use a different car from where the dog has been sick before. Initially open all the doors so your dog doesn’t feel trapped. Add a blanket from home or try using an Adaptil collar or spray (15 minutes before training). If possible, plan to avoid car journeys with your dog for the next few weeks whilst you train them

  • Watch out for stress – Dogs show a whole range of behaviours when they’re scared as listed above. Your dog should be totally happy with the first step before adding anything else. Be patient

  • Baby steps – Start by asking your dog to get in and out the car a few times rewarding them each time they jump in. Try feeding your dog in the car as the ‘jackpot’ for all their hard work. If you have a dog who is too scared to even approach the car it would be best to talk to a behaviourist

  • Avoid ‘luring’ your dog – Try not to use high value treats as a ‘lure’ as this can create a stressful conflict for your dog (tasty food vs. scary place). Imagine, if you saw a bar of chocolate in a scary cave you might be tempted to run in and grab it, but the moment you’ve got your hands on it you’re out of there! Alternatively if you go into the cave even though you find it scary and THEN get rewarded with chocolate, suddenly the cave is a little less frightening

  • Building it up – Once your dog feels ok sitting in the back seat, try turning the engine on and not going anywhere. Watch for any signs of increasing anxiety. Once this feels okay try a 30 second drive and build from there, keeping drives as smooth and corner free as possible

  • Keep up the good work – keep reinforcing the idea that the car is an okay place to be. If your dog only goes in the car to the vets they will begin to form a negative association. Try to add in driving short distances to rewarding places e.g. for a walk to dilute the negative association

  • Give your dog a cue – If you HAVE to put your dog in the car whilst you are still training try using a special harness or lead which is very different from their normal set. This gives your dog a cue that they are going in the car and helps them continue to trust you when it comes to training

Is there a travel sickness tablet for dogs? What about sedation?

Yes, but it has to be prescribed by your vet. Motion sickness tablets can be used to see how much of your dog’s worry around car journeys is related to sickness vs fear. Tablets are also a good option for long or unavoidable journeys but not for use every time. Sedation is rarely the answer although it has its place either as part of a behavioural modification programme or for one-off unavoidable journeys. There is no long term ‘quick fix’ for fearful behaviour but if you’re having trouble seek help from a professional.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

Whenever your dog or cat needs first aid treatment it’s good to be prepared. This article will give you some suggestions for what to stock in your pet’s first aid kit at home and some first aid tips for common ailments.

First aid kit

Ready-made pet first aid kits are available to purchase from your vet clinic or pet pharmacy. However, if you prefer to assemble your own first aid kit, here is a list of some important items to include:

  1. Up to date vaccination card

  2. Microchip number

  3. Recent photo of your pet

  4. Important telephone numbers, including your nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic

  5. Thermometer: normal temperature for both dogs and cats is approximately 38-39oC

  6. Saline for cleaning wounds. Make your own by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to 500ml (1 pint) of cooled boiled water

  7. Chlorhexidine or antiseptic wash: use diluted (1:10 dilution – 1 part antiseptic to 9 parts water) for contaminated wounds

  8. Melolin non-adhesive dressing to apply directly to wounds

  9. Gauze swabs to clean wounds or eyes

  10. Cotton wool roll

  11. Conforming bandage (eg Knitfirm) and cohesive bandage (eg Vetrap) for bandaging wounds

  12. Adhesive tape to secure bandages

  13. Scissors with rounded ends

  14. Syringe to administer medication or clean a wound

  15. Spare collar and lead

  16. Probiotics for dogs and cats

  17. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats. This is usually added to their drinking water


It is recommended that you check the kit each year, and replace things that have been used or gone out of date.

What happens if my pet eats something it shouldn’t?

If your pet eats something it shouldn’t, that might cause irritation, damage or perforation of the stomach and/or intestine you should contact your vet immediately. It may be necessary for your vet to induce vomiting. This is done with the help of a special vomiting medication given by injection. Please do not try to make your pet vomit at home using salt, as this can cause salt poisoning.

If more than two hours have passed since your pet ate something inappropriate, expulsion by vomiting is rarely possible. After this time the stomach contents pass through into the small intestine. In some cases it is not appropriate to induce vomiting as the item/chemical may cause further damage on the way back up, or may become lodged in the oesophagus (food pipe).

There are many human food types, as well as other household items, that are toxic to pets. If your animal is showing any signs of having eaten something it shouldn’t, then do not watch and wait; contact your nearest vet clinic immediately. If possible, take a sample of the item consumed, or the packaging with you, as this will help the vet assess the danger and provide the appropriate treatment.

If your pet seems well, or you are unsure about what they have eaten, you can start by calling your vet for some advice. More information is available from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service Animal Poisons website. Here you will find details, for example, about how much chocolate a pet can consume before signs of toxicity are seen.

How do I treat fight wounds at home?

If your dog is involved in a fight, do not try to intervene with your hands as you risk getting bitten, or scratched. Instead, try to distract them or separate them, for example by soaking them in water using a bucket, or a hose pipe. For cats involved in a fight, gently introduce a sheet of cardboard or another large barrier between them, to split them up and then allow them to cool down.

After the fight your pet may be agitated, scared or in pain. Take great care when checking for injuries. If you can see an obvious wound, if your pet has difficulty walking or standing, is bleeding heavily, or is in shock, then seek advice from a vet immediately. In the meantime, keep your pet as quiet as possible. If you find a wound(s) that is more than 1 cm long or more than a few millimetres deep, if the wound is over a joint, or if the wound is contaminated with debris, a visit to your vet is needed. If the wound is bleeding heavily, it may be possible to wrap a bandage (see first aid kit above) around the affected area to stem the blood flow. Let the vet know that you are on your way, so that they can be ready when you arrive.

If your pet seems ok, check closely for small wounds or tiny puncture marks. These may be hidden under the fur and may only become apparent after a few days. Puncture wounds often become infected because bacteria become trapped under the skin, resulting in the formation of an abscess. This often leads to swelling, which can be very painful.

It may be possible to treat small wounds at home. Carefully trim the hair around a wound and wash it with copious saline solution; if necessary, use clean gauze to remove mild debris. If you notice that the area around the wound is swelling, or the wound is not healing, then seek advice from a vet.

Lameness: What do you do if you suspect a broken leg?

If your pet has an obvious fracture, if bone is visible, if it is non-weight bearing on one or more limbs, or seems to be very sore, then we recommend that you seek emergency assistance from your nearest vet clinic. If your pet has a broken leg, you can try to stabilise it by gently wrapping the leg with cotton wool roll, followed by conforming bandage and then cohesive wrap. You can add a light-weight stiff splint for extra support between the layers of cotton wool, for example a wooden ice-cream stick for small animals, and a similar larger splint for bigger animals. If it is an open fracture (the broken bone is visible through the wound), use a clean piece of gauze or melolin dressing, moistened with saline. This should be placed over the entire wound before applying the bandage on top.

How do you dress a paw wound?

Sometimes it may be appropriate to put on a bandage to protect a paw wound and to speed up wound healing. It is important to follow these steps and use the diagram below:

  1. Cut small strips of gauze or cotton wool and lay a piece in between each toe, including the dew claw. This is to prevent the nails from rubbing and scratching the adjacent toe/s

  2. Wrap the paw with a cotton wool roll, starting with the toes and continuing up the leg; you may or may not need to extend the bandage over the wrist joint in the forelimb, or the ankle joint in the hindlimb

  3. Wrap conforming bandage over the cotton wool, for the full length of the bandage, followed by a cohesive wrap

  4. If you put bandages on a back paw, make sure that there is sufficient cotton wool over the ankle joint so that it is properly padded, and do not wrap too tightly as this can cause pressure sores in this area

How do you treat a broken nail?

The first sign of a broken nail may be that your pet is limping. If the broken nail has been lost completely, the nail bed may be very sore. You can clean it very gently each day with saline (see first aid kit above). Using regular paw bandages and/or an Elizabethan (Buster) collar for the first two weeks may be sufficient to allow it to heal fully. The nail should start to grow back after a few weeks. If your pet won’t let you look at the paw, if the nail is only partially detached, or if there are fragments of nail still attached, then you should seek additional veterinary advice and treatment.

Eyes: How do you treat conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is typically caused by environmental irritants, such as dust or pollen. If the eyes are both fully open, clear and bright, you can usually start by applying a drop of saline to each eye 2-3 times per day to provide cleansing and lubrication. If it does not resolve within 24-48 hours, or gets worse, then your pet should be seen by your vet.

Eye injuries are more serious. They can progress quickly and are extremely painful, so it is important that they receive prompt treatment by a vet. What to look for:

  • The eye is partially or fully closed and your pet does not want to open it

  • The pupils (black hole in the centre of the eye) are different sizes

  • The eye looks cloudy or milky

  • There is blood inside the eye, or there is blood coming from the eye or surrounding area

  • Your pet appears to be blind, or is having difficulty seeing with one or both eyes

To prevent your pet from doing further damage to the eye on the way to the vet, use a restraining harness, an Elizabethan Collar or an Inflatable Buster Collar. A traditional collar and lead is not advisable because pressure on the neck may also increase pressure in the eye.

What should I do if my dog has vomiting and diarrhoea?

If your pet develops vomiting and/or diarrhoea, ensure that they have access to fresh water. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats can be added to their water to help them maintain hydration. If an adult animal vomits then it should be starved for 2-3 hours before being offered a small bland meal. For example, boiled rice or pasta with a little cooked chicken, turkey or white fish. Please note puppies and kittens cannot be starved as their blood sugar levels will fall dangerously low.

If there is no further vomiting, this diet can be continued for 5-7 days, together with a probiotic supplement, to help the gut microflora to recover faster. It is important to make any changes to the diet slowly.

If the animal becomes lethargic or dehydrated, vomits blood, has frank blood in their stools, or vomiting episodes continue after 24 hours, then you should contact your vet to arrange an examination.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Can my dog eat a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Can my dog eat a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Technically yes, dogs can survive on both a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, there are some important things to understand to ensure that your dog gets the right nutrition for their age, size and general health. In this article our vet discusses what to consider when feeding a vegan or vegetarian diet to your dog and examples of nutritionally balanced brands available. Our vet shares the latest advice here.

This article will cover:

  • Why feed your dog a vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Can I feed my dog a home cooked vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Does a vegan diet provide enough nutrition?
  • What commercially available vegetarian or vegan diets are available?
  • What else should I consider when choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet for my dog?
  • How do I get started feeding my dog a vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Can my cat be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Why feed your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Many of us are trying to eat less meat for concerns over welfare, to reduce our environmental impact or for the overall health benefits associated with meat free diets. If you lead a vegan lifestyle you may understandably want to explore the options for extending your beliefs to include your dog. In certain circumstances a vegan or vegetarian diet may have health benefits for your dog. For example, dogs with food allergies or sensitivities tend to be reacting to the animal protein source (very rarely gluten or dairy). By using plant sources of protein this reaction could be avoided, which makes vegetarian or vegan diets are suitable for diet trials. However, it is important to feed your dog a ‘complete’ commercial diet to ensure your dog gets a balanced diet.

Can I feed my dog a home cooked vegan or vegetarian diet?

No, don’t be tempted to home cook for your dog unless you are under the guidance and supervision of a qualified veterinary nutritionist. It is extremely challenging to create a nutritionally balanced home cooked diet, let alone a vegan or vegetarian diet, which is part of the reason the commercial versions are relatively new on the market. In the short term, your dog may seem ok, but there are serious health consequences to feeding an unbalanced diet for a longer period of time and this is never recommended. Signs of inappropriate nutrition include poor coat quality, poor growth, weight loss, lack of energy and low litter size in whelping bitches.

Does a vegan diet provide enough nutrition?

Yes, if you use a commercially prepared ‘complete’ dog food. All commercial dog foods described as ‘complete’ are bound under law to provide all of a pet’s dietary requirements. It is interesting to note that adding food to an already complete commercial diet can actually cause nutritional deficiencies; for example adding cooked chicken changes the calcium to phosphorus ratio, which is especially important for growing dogs. So there is no need to supplement your dog’s diet with any extras if you are feeding a complete commercial pet food. If you do want to add something else, adding a small amount of a good quality balanced wet or dry dog food is much better than adding cooked chicken.

What vegetarian or vegan diets are commercially available?

There are more and more options when looking for a vegan or vegetarian dog food. Be sure that the product is labeled ‘complete’ if this is going to make up the majority of your dog’s diet to meet its nutritional needs. Vegan or vegetarian options include: Vetruus Solo VegetalYarrahBenevoAmi and Lily’s Kitchen. These can be fed on their own or mixed into a meat based diet.

If you’re looking to reduce the environmental impact of your pets’ food, Yora and Green Petfood sell insect protein-based complete pet foods. Entec nutrition also has an insect based pet food in the pipeline, launching in 2021.

What else should I consider when choosing a vegan/vegetarian diet for my dog?

Your dog’s age, weight and health conditions must be carefully considered when choosing a diet. Elderly dogs and puppies have different nutritional needs. It is vital that puppies are on a puppy specific food as this contains the right balance of nutrients for growing. Feeding your puppy an adult food can lead to lifelong skeletal issues. Some health conditions require a specific prescription diet and there may not be a suitable vegetarian or vegan alternative on the market just yet.

How do I get started feeding my dog a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Choose a complete dog food which is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle. Slowly transition from your current food over a week or more, starting with 75% of the original food and 25% of the new food. Increase the percentage of new food and reduce the percentage of old food by 25% every 2-3 days. A sudden change of diet can lead to vomiting or diarrhoea. Home cooking for your dog can lead to health problems and malnutrition and should not be attempted long term unless you are under the supervision of a veterinary nutritionist (nutritionist is not a protected term which means that anyone can give themselves this title so please ensure that they are a veterinary nutritionist).

Can my cat be vegan?

Unfortunately, cats cannot survive on a vegan or vegetarian diet and should always be fed a meat based diet. To find out more read our article ‘Can my cat be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet?’

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet

What’s covered in an MOT vs a full service?

It’s not just first-time car owners who don’t know exactly what’s covered in an MOT or a service.

Many of us have been driving for years, or even decades, without knowing exactly what happens when we take our car to be seen at a garage, and might still need to consult the internet every now and again when checking our oil and water.

Fortunately, the average driver doesn’t need to be an expert on cars; that’s what garages are for, right?

Unless you’ve got an interest in cars or work with them, you’re not going to know (or care enough to know) the intricate details of how your engine works. It is, however, important to know the difference between an MOT and service in order to prolong your car’s health and ensure that it’s running in the best condition possible.

What’s covered in an MOT

A Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is an annual test that your car has to pass (if it’s older three years old) in order to be classed as road-legal. During the MOT, the following parts of your car will be tested:

Emissions

Your car will be checked to ensure that your exhaust emissions are within the specified guidelines.

They will also check that your exhaust hasn’t got any serious leaks and is silenced efficiently.

Steering and suspension

The MOT tester will check to ensure that your steering and suspension components are in the correct condition.

Wheels and tyres

An integral part of the MOT is ensuring your car’s wheels and tyres are safe. To pass the test, your car’s wheels and tyres must meet the minimum specifications for condition, security, tread depth, tyre type and tyre size.

Lights

Your lights will be checked based on their brightness and overall condition. The test will also check to see that your headlight aim is correct.

Seats

The MOT tester will check your seats are all secure.

Fuel system

Leaks are the most common problem with fuel systems; during the MOT your fuel tank will be checked to rule any leaks out, as well as checking that your fuel cap is secure.

Wipers and washer bottle

Your wipers and wash bottle will be tested to ensure that you get a clear view of the road when driving.

Horn

During the MOT your horn will be tested for sound level and suitability.

Doors

Your doors will be checked to make sure that when they’re closed, the latch is secure and not at risk of opening accidentally.

Brakes

Brakes are one of the most important parts of the MOT; during the test, your brakes will be tested on their performance, condition and operation. This will usually be done on a roller brake tester.

Seatbelts

All seatbelts in your car will be checked to ensure that they fasten properly and are in a good enough condition to serve their purpose.

Mirrors

Your mirrors will be checked to ensure that they give you a clear view of the road.

Windscreen

The MOT tester will check your car’s windscreen to make sure that there aren’t any chips or cracks in it. The maximum damage your car’s windscreen can have and still pass the MOT is 10mm in the driver’s line of vision or 40mm elsewhere in the remaining area that’s swept by the wiper blades.

Bodywork

Your car’s bodywork will be looked at to ensure that your car hasn’t been damaged or suffered any excessive corrosion since your last MOT test.

Registration plate

Your car needs to have its registration plate clearly displayed at all times, and as such the MOT tester will check to make sure that the spacing and lettering on the plates is in line with regulations and hasn’t been altered in any way.

Vehicle Identification Number

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique code containing a serial number that every vehicle has. The MOT tester will check that the VIN is clear and legibly displayed on the vehicle.

How a full service is different to an MOT

Everything listed above is considered as an essential part of your car, and as such has to meet the minimum guidelines set out by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to be considered safe and roadworthy. It’s because of this that an MOT is a mandatory test that has to be completed once a year.

A full service works much differently to this.

Whereas an MOT checks that the most vital parts of your car meet the minimum standards to be considered roadworthy, a full service is a much more thorough, in-depth and comprehensive look at your car, and it’s recommended that you have one done every 12,000 miles that your car travels.

During the service, a mechanic will survey virtually every component within your vehicle to check that your car is running at optimum performance and efficiency, and may make suggestions to help your car run more smoothly even if they’re not essential fixes.

A full service will usually be split into different parts, including:

Under the hood

During a full service, a wide range of components under your car’s bonnet will be looked at that aren’t covered during an MOT. These include your car’s battery and its wiring, test electrics, coolant levels, high-voltage cables, brake fluid levels, power steering fluids, drive belts and brake pipes.

Vehicle interior

This includes checking things such as engine diagnostic codes, Adblue/Eolys warning lights, climate control systems, clutch operation, instruments, gauges, warning lights and interior lights.

Vehicle exterior

A mechanic will look at your mirrors, interior and exterior lights, doors, fuel cap and boot.

Under the vehicle

During the full service a mechanic will also check under your vehicle. This will include a checking your fuel pipes, engine transmission, rear axle train drive, shaft joints, gaiters, exhaust systems and mountings. They’ll also perform a full brake inspection.

Pre-alignment checks

Pre-alignment checks will include checks on your car’s steering, shock absorbers and springs, suspension linkages, ball joints and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) inspection.

Service item replacements

During a full service, the mechanic will replace your engine oil and filter if necessary. They’ll also top up your windscreen and washer fluid and replace your air filter.

Final checks

As the final part of your service, the mechanic will complete a vehicle road test and stamp your service book.

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to get regular full services on your car and pass your annual MOT with flying colours. Unfortunately, breakdowns still happen and you never know what’s around the corner, so why not ensure you’ve got great value breakdown cover through Cover My just in case?

Second hand cars

Problems to look out for when buying second-hand cars

Buying a car second-hand can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you might be able to find a great deal for what you’re paying, a bargain with plenty of miles left on the clock or even a hidden gem of a classic car you’ve always wanted.

On the other hand, if you don’t do your research and know what to look for, buying a car second-hand can be a risky business. The last thing you want is to buy a second-hand car and find out two weeks later that it’s going to need a clutch replacement, for example, or a new cambelt fitting; depending on how much you spent, replacing these could be more expensive than the car itself!

Fortunately, if you know what to look out for when buying a second-hand car you can greatly reduce the chances of needing to pay out for expensive repairs. If you’re in the market for a second-hand vehicle yourself, here’s what you need to be on the lookout for.

Test drive

The first thing you should do before you purchase any car second-hand? Take it for a thorough test drive of at least 45 minutes, and make sure to drive both on normal streets and on motorways/dual carriageways so you know how the drives at all speeds. This will really allow you to get an overall feel for how well the car performs, and will give you a real idea of how well the car’s brakes, power steering, gears and clutch are working.

It’s also the only way to find out if the car’s tracking is off; if you find the car drifting to one side when you’re driving, then this should be an instant red flag! A test drive will also give you a chance to get a proper look at the interior and make sure the inside of your (potential) new car is in a good enough condition.

Use your test drive as an opportunity to check other parts of the car are working and in good condition too, such as dials, pedals and switches. If you do notice any irregularities whilst driving, be sure to check your tyres for any wear and tear (although ideally you’ll do this before you get in the vehicle anyway).

Engine

When you started the car for your test-drive, were there any abnormal noises coming from the engine? This, obviously, should be an early red flag and something to ask about. Similarly, does the car’s clutch operate normally, or have a high biting point when you’re moving off? Both are signs that repairs to the engine may need to be made soon, so be sure to look out for them.

You should also keep your eyes peeled for things like excessive exhaust emissions (this may indicate oil leakage) or sludge on the underside of the oil filler – a tell-tale sign of poor servicing that means you’re likely going to have to pay out a hefty sum for repairs next time you go for a service. Make sure to watch out for rattling noises or strong sulphur smells coming from the exhaust too, as these are symptoms of a failing catalytic converter and, ultimately, a hefty bill for a new one.

Mileage

All cars have a shelf life, and the easiest way to get an indication of this is by looking at a car’s mileage. Most cars average around 12,000 miles per year, although this can increase to around 30,000 a year for people who commute to work every day. This should give you a fair indication of how many miles the car has left on the clock, as well as a general clue as to how many repairs might need to be made in the future.

Accidental damage

Accidents happen, but ideally not to the second-hand car you want to buy. If the car you’re looking at has any dents or signs that it’s been in a crash (scrapes, scratches, uneven paint etc.) then be sure to ask the owner about these. If the car has been damaged in the past it may not be a significant problem now, but may result in costly repairs down the line if you don’t get them fixed, so remember to bear this in mind.

Documents

Some of the most important things to look out for when buying a car second-hand is its documents. You need to make sure that the car comes with:

  • VC5 document (you’ll need this to tax the car in future)
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Registration plate
  • Service and full car history
  • Written-off car checks
  • Logbook
  • MOT certificate (if older than three years old)
  • HPI clear check – this is generally considered as the final seal of approval you need when buying a new car, and will guarantee the car doesn’t have any finance agreements secured against it. A clear HPI check will also show that the car hasn’t been stolen or classified as a loss/write-off by any insurance companies.

If the seller doesn’t have any of the above documents, you need to find out why before buying the vehicle. Not having any of the above documentation could leave you liable to problems or even fines further down the line, so be careful!

We’re sure that you’ll make the right choice when purchasing your second-hand car, but the fact is that breakdowns sometimes happen even if your car is in pristine condition; you never know what’s around the corner! To make sure you’re protected, why not find out about the range of breakdown options available through Cover My?  

Preparing your car for Winter: are you covered?

Winter-proofing your car isn’t just essential for keeping yourself safe as the colder months draw closer; taking the right steps to ensure your car is ready for Winter can also save you a heap of money in case anything goes wrong. What’s more, getting your car ready now will give you peace of mind that if you do run into any trouble, you’ll be well-prepared to deal with it. Here’s our top tips to help you prepare your car for the cold Winter months ahead.

Check your car’s battery

This one is first on our list for a reason – the last thing you want is to be stuck on a country road or a motorway in minus temperatures with a dead battery. If your car is taking a long time to start when you turn the key, or your headlights are dim even with new bulbs, then it’s worth getting your battery checked; these are a two of the most common signs of a battery nearing the end of its life, and it’d be smart to get it replaced sooner rather than later.

Don’t forget de-icing spray

Car windows thick with ice in the morning? You can either sit there with engine running for ten minutes (and make yourself late for work) or blast your windows with de-icing spray and leave in seconds.

Remember to never pour boiling water over your car’s windows when they’re covered in ice – the sudden, extreme change in temperature has the potential to shatter your car’s window, making it a very dangerous thing to try and do. Just use de-icing spray instead, or at the very least a plastic window scraper.

Carry a spare phone charger

Most cars nowadays have USB charging ports that you can attach a phone cable to. If you break down for whatever reason, then it’s essential that you have a phone to call for breakdown help if you get stuck, so be sure to carry a spare cable in your car with you.

If your car is an older model that doesn’t have a charging port, then you may want to consider using a portable charging station as an alternative.

Keep your boot stocked

Your car’s boot should always be stocked with a spare wheel and container full of petrol in case of emergencies.

With Winter approaching, ensure that you’ve got a torch if you breakdown in the dark and need to open your bonnet, along with a pair of thick work gloves if you need to make any repairs. Finally, remember to keep a set of jump-start cables in case your battery dies; it’s likely that somebody will stop to try and help if you do break down, but they might not have any cables of their own!

Invest in Winter tyres

If you’ve got a long commute to work and back every day, or are planning a long drive over Christmas to catch up with friends and family, then it might be worth considering buying some Winter-ready tyres. The rubber in these tyres is designed to work better at temperatures below 7 degrees, and will provide your car with extra grip if there’s ice, snow, sleet or rain on the road.

Check your car’s wipers

Your car’s windscreen wipers are vital during the Winter months. If your wipers are split or damaged they won’t clear rain away properly and will hamper your visibility, especially if you’re caught in heavy rain or snow. This could potentially result in a crash and put you and other road users in danger, so make sure to check these too.

Anti-freeze, please

Inside your car’s cooler is a mixture of water and anti-freeze that works to stop your coolant freezing in the engine. This will degrade over time, and needs refreshing every so often to keep your car in working order, making it an essential thing to have in the colder months.

Many garages and fast-fit outlets offer free Winter car checks and will check your car’s anti-freeze concentration for you if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Alternatively, you can buy a simple anti-freeze tool online that will tell you if you car needs topping up.

Inspect your tyre pressure

If you’re choosing not to get a new pair of Winter tyres for your car, then you should always look at your current tyres to make sure they’re adequately inflated to the right level. Tyres tend to deflate in colder conditions and this will reduce the control you have over your car when driving, so check your car’s tyres regularly (ideally at least once a month) over the Winter months.

Don’t run on fumes

Some of us wouldn’t be caught dead with at least half a tank full of petrol, whereas others are happy to drive until the tank is almost empty before refuelling. In Winter it’s prudent to be the former rather than the latter; driving in adverse conditions can make your car run out of fuel much quicker than usual, and if you get stuck in a long traffic jam due to an accident on the road you’ll want to ensure that your car stays running, so keep your tank full!

Are you covered for every eventuality?

Our tips will significantly reduce the chances of you running into trouble on the road this Winter or, but this doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

The only way to have full, complete peace of mind when you’re driving is to have comprehensive breakdown cover that looks after you in any situation. Regardless of where you are, what time of day it is or what the weather’s like, knowing that you’ll always have someone on the way to help you or your family if you ever get stuck is an invaluable lifeline that you should never go without, especially in Winter!

To find out more about the range of breakdown insurance options available through CoverMy, head over to the CoverMy website or give us a call on 0208 6269 454.