Caring for your senior dog

Caring for your senior dog

Caring for your senior dog

Just as with humans, our senior dogs suffer from age related problems and senility.  The problem is however, is that they cannot always show us what is wrong.

Common health problems in senior dogs

  • Deteriorating eyesight and hearing
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Senility/Dementia
  • Kidney disease
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Dental problems

How do I know if my dog is in pain

There are certain breeds like German Shepherd Dogs, who are extremely stoic and will often hide their pain, so it is important to look for signs of discomfort and agitation. Senior dogs with arthritis, can be sensitive to touch and resent normal handling.

Sudden snappiness or aggressive behaviour is a sure sign that your dog is feeling out of sorts, or hiding away instead of coming to greet you.  Changes in their eating pattern, excessive drinking and sleeping throughout the day are all indications that your dog is unwell.

Our eleven year old German Shepherd is now heavily panting, even though is had no exercise and is noticeably stiff when he awakes from a nap.

When to get treatment

Senior dogs do not have the reserves of a younger dog, hence time is crucial. It is far better to err on the side of caution and get your dog checked out as soon as you can.

You may also want to take more frequent trips to the vet, based on your dogs symptoms and be careful to administer the correct dosage of medication when prescribed.

Adjust their living conditions

For senior dogs with joint problems such as hip dysplasia or joint issues, you may want to consider giving your dog a ramp, to enable them easier access to the stairs or your car. Keep their foot and water bowls within easy reach and provide non slip mats on wooden floorboards or slippery floors.  Heat pads can relieve a senior dogs achy joints, but check them regularly, to ensure that they are not too hot and follow the instructions carefully.

It is extremely difficult to see your once playful puppy turn into a senior dog with health problems and know that their time with you may be limited. They may have their ailments but they still feel as much love and loyalty as they did in their younger years.

The final goodbye

Sudden death is a rarity and it is more likely that they will give clues that they are nearing the end of their lives. There is a strong possibility that you may be faced with a heart wrenching decision about when to say your final goodbye.

Dogs that have been ill for sometime may fall peacefully to sleep, but it is more likely that their quality of life will diminish rapidly, forcing you to make a painful decision.  It is important to remember that the rapid advances in veterinary technology may prolong your dogs life, but it is not always in their best interest to do so.

Your last loving act may be that of euthanasia, setting your dog free from their pain and suffering.  Only you know what decision to take.  When you see the suffering in your dogs eyes and their inability to cope with the smallest things, like eating and drinking and when their quality of life has completely diminished.

The final breath

Having your dog put to sleep is the most difficult decision you will make for your dog and I would implore you to stay with him until his very last breath. Try to stay calm, remain strong and if possible, hold them until they quietly slip away.

Take time to grieve

Just like losing a human family member, you must take the time to grieve.  The loss of your pet can have a severe impact on your health so consider counselling or a support group.  Dogs are with us through tears and our happiness and often are there when our family are not and their passing can leave a huge void in our lives.  Acknowledge your grief, since it is an essential part of your healing.  Take as long as you need and cry when you feel the need.

 

 

 

Is it time to ban cats?

Killer cats

Should cats be banned?

The view of cats being murdering menaces, is shared by people who continually call for cat owners to keep their animals inside, or at least ensure that they are fitted with bell – collars to help prevent them from hunting and killing wildlife.

Dr Peter Marra, a world bird expert was recently interviewed on on radio 4’s Today programme and stated that cats were killing billions of birds each day.  For this reason, he stated that cats should be banned from going outside.  He also stated that all free roaming/stray cats, should be euthanised if homes could not be found!

Cat population

There are thought to be approximately 8 million cats in the United Kingdom and it is thought that they kill around 55m birds a year, but they mainly predate on the sick, the weak and the young.

As a cat owner, I cannot dispute that of all three of my rescue cats, the eldest, will take any opportunity to desimate our local wildlife.  Predation is an inherant trait but it is their purrs and snuggles, which is a side that makes cats the perfect companian.

Noisy cats

So aside from keeping our cats indoors, what other  measures can we take to give our wildlife a fighting chance.  Well, you could fit a bell to a quick release collar. Theoretically, the sound of an approaching cat will alert their pray and help them to ellude capture, however, in practise it makes little difference.  Cats are too clever!

In short I see little evidence that our cats are responsible for driving our wildlife to extinction.  The RSPCA also state that they see little evidence to suggest that cats are responsible for our declining bird population.

How can you help

Many of our cat clients are turning to cat proofing their gardens.  The solves the dilemma of keeping cats in a safe environment and allowing them to enjoy the outdoors.  Outdoor cats are also at risk from traffic dangers and sadistic people who relish the opportunity to injure and kill domestic pets. It will also prevent other cats from entering your garden, which can be a source of stress for many cats.

Cat proofing your garden will limit your cats access and you will need to work harder to enrich their surroundings and keep them entertained.

Plant dangers

A bored cat will be tempted to nibble your plants, so you will need to ensure that there are no toxic plants in that area.  Slug bait and poisons used to control pests are extremely hazardous and should never be used near your cats.  Planting some cat nip and erecting a few platforms, will ensure that your cats remain happy and content while outdoors.

Helping a Dog Lose Weight – Weight management

Health implications for overweight dogs

There is an old saying with regard to overfeeding your dog and that is quite simply, ‘killing your pet with kindness’, or what you perceive to be kindness.

Of course dogs relish the opportunity of a cooked sausage or two and look at those eyes when they see you reach for their treat jar.  Sadly the reality of too many sausages and treats, can be an overweight dog causing lasting damage to your pets organs, bones and joints, leading to heart disease and high blood pressure.

Less calories – weight management

You can start by consulting your vet, who will advise the best diet for your dog and work with you to ensure that weight reducing and management, will be controlled and done in the correct manner.

They will also take into account your dogs exercise regime and calorie intake. It could be that just cutting treats altogether is all that your dog needs to shed those extra pounds.  If this is the case and once your dog reaches their ideal weight, a slightly longer exercise regime, is all that is required to maintain a healthy weight.

Don’t give in

It is so important that you hold firm when Fido offers those pleading eyes. Remember it is for their own good and if you are serving the correct portions, giving more food/treats will only add to more weight issues.

Begging is a trick that they will quickly learn to exploit, so put them away while you are eating.

Exercise

Increasing their exercise alone, is not enough to reduce a dogs weight, although it is very helpful.  You will need to start gradually, little and often, being mindful of older pets, especially in hot weather.

If your dog enjoys playing, outdoor activities such as hiding a favourite toy, will also stimulate their mind, as well as reducing their waistline.

Treats

Treats do not have to be like those found in a local supermarket packet.  Pieces of carrot, small slices of cooked liver, or chicken can be ideal, but remember to adjust their main meal accordingly.

Neither are treats essential and should always be given in small quantities such as the size of a fingernail.

Patient

Be patient with any weight loss/weight management program.  It may take a few months before your dog reaches his/her target weight and be sure to seek veterinary advice and guidance before a diet is agreed.

Having more than one dog

The best solution for someone who has more than one dog, is to feed them separately.

Do not leave food out when you are away from the home, since you cannot control who eats what when you are not around.

Weight loss success

For the majority of overweight dogs the key to weight loss success is commitment from their owners.

Dogs do not understand the implications of being overweight and rely on us for their well-being and safety.  By overfeeding our canine companions we are inadvertently contributing to a premature death or developing a debilitating disease.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer safety tips for your pets – Must read guide

 

Summer is a wonderful time to be out and about for your pets and here’s some summer safety tips for your pets, when the temperature rises.

Symptoms of overheating in pets

These can include excessive panting and difficulty breathing.  Pets with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are extremely susceptible to overheating as they struggle to pant effectively, so these types of dogs and the elderly should be kept cool whenever possible.

Always ensure that water bowls are topped up with fresh clean water and hutches are either brought in out of the hot sun or moved to the shade.

Swimming Pools & Salt Water

Do not leave pets unsupervised around a swimming pool – contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are good swimmers and do not forget to remove the chlorine/salt from their fur, so rinse well after a swim.

Sunscreen

Just like us, dogs and cats require protection too and sunscreen is especially important for dogs/cats with white/thin fur.

Pet owners should remember to avoid any sunscreen that contains para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), since this can be toxic if ingested.  Quite simply, never use sunscreen with zinc oxide on your pet.

If you are unsure what products to use, please contact your vets who will be only too happy to advise.

Cars

Have you ever sat inside your vehicle on a summer day in the searing heat, with the windows and doors closed?  Try it!  I doubt you will last for five minutes with feeling unwell, so PLEASE do not leave your dogs to swelter.

Walking

Dogs should never be walked in hot temperatures, so avoid the hottest times of the day.

Make sure your walks are done in shaded areas and take plenty of water with you.

Snakes

Don’t forget that even the UK has snakes, most of which are harmless. However, Adders are poisonous and should be avoided where possible.

Adders are primarily found in heathland, dune grasslands and other naturally grassy areas, so do not allow your dog off leash in these areas.

Try to keep to designated trails and if your dog does get bitten, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Summer insects

Ticks are a common problem during the warm summer months, so check your dog regularly, especially when walking through wooded areas.

A good groom following walks, checking for any lumps and bumps. If one is found, they can be a bit tricky to remove, so twisting them off with a tick remover should do the trick, making sure that its head does not get stuck to your dog.  If you are unsure, contact your vet for advice.

Paws

When the sun is at its hottest, surfaces such as sand and paving get extremely hot.  Not can it only burn your pet’s paws, it can also increase body temperature.  If it is too hot for bare feet, it is also too hot for your pet’s paws.

Hopefully, these tips will help both you and your pets to stay safe and enjoyable summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do dogs eat grass?

Dog sitting on grass

There are many theories as to why cats and dogs eat grass, the most common being that it is medicinal to help them vomit. However, statistics show that less than 25% of cats and dogs that eat grass are actually sick!

Most cat and dog owners have regularly witnessed them eating grass, especially in the summertime, although it is much more common in dogs than cats, here are a few theories as to why are canine and feline friends chomp on the green stuff:

Digestion

There does not appear to be any nutritional value.

Cats can regurgitate when they eat grass since they lack the enzymes which break down vegetation. This could be a way of eliminating indigestible matter from their stomachs.

Natural laxative

It is thought that grass could act as a laxative, helping your cat with regular bowel movements.

Toxic

Cat in long grass

While researchers find that grass eating is relatively common in cats and dogs, it is rarely associated to illness. However, it is extremely important that dog and cat owners are particularly careful about using pesticides or fertilisers on or near your garden plants since they can be extremely toxic.

Diet deficiency

To conclude, research has found that grass eating is extremely common that usually occurs in healthy animals and is not necessarily associated with illness or dietary deficiency.

So, these are just a few reasons why our feline and canine friends may eat grass, but there is another.  Perhaps they both just enjoy the taste!

Which pet is best for me?

So you have taken the decision to welcome a pet into your family for the first time, so what pet is best for you?  Little four-year-old Peter is desperate for that beautiful fluffy bunny he fell in love with in the pet store window, while five year old Mandy has been pleading for a little kitten just like her friend Abigail’s.  Decisions, decisions, what do you do?

Pet ownership is extremely rewarding and I have long been of the opinion, that animal welfare should be part of the school curriculum, but back to the question in hand.

Please do NOT buy or adopt on impulse and do your research before welcoming any animal into your home.

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we are keen advocates of #adoptdontshop and would always suggest visiting your local animal shelter.  Pet stores are biased to selling their animals and in my opinion, are not best placed to offer the advice required, such as dietary requirements, socialisation and the correct feeding.  In my capacity as a pet sitter, I have seen countless Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and small furries (with the exception of Syrian Hamsters), being sold separately. This is heartbreaking given that those mentioned are community animals and should never live alone.

Over the eighteen years I have been in business, I have shuddered at the inappropriate housing of some animals in our charge, such as tiny Rabbit hutches with little space for them to maneuver, Chickens kept in tiny pods which are completely inadequate, even for the pets for which they were intended and Ducks with just a bowl of water in a small garden.

Impulse buying

When buying or adopting any pet, this should be a thought out, will prepared process.  If in doubt ask a pet professional such as a vet, or visit the Blue Cross/RSPCA website, which are awash with information about all manner of pets.

Consider your home circumstances.

  • What size is your garden?
  • Do you work all day?
  • Finances-can you afford the expense of owning a pet?

Which pet

In order to decide the above, you should consider your reasons for wanting a pet.  If it is primarily for your children, I would look to the small furies such as rabbits, guinea pigs or another hutch/cage dwelling creature.  My particular favorite are fancy rats.  Of all the little furries, fancy rats are by far the most intelligent.  They are extremely affectionate little creatures and far happier if kept in pairs.

As with all pets, please consider adopting, but if you really want a pair of young rats ensure that you go to a reputable breeder.

If you are looking for a more energetic companion, then of course a dog would be ideal.  However, if you work all day and require a more independent addition to your household a cat would be a purrfect fit.  Again, there are dogs and cats of all ages and sizes in rescue centers up and down the country, but if it is a pure bred that you desire, PLEASE, ensure that you chose a reputable breeder and remember to:

  1. Never buy from a pet store or answer an advert in the local paper. These are often the window for puppy mills and should be avoided at all cost.
  2. Remember that the Kennel Club provides details of accredited breeders with registered puppies for sale and look on their website for contact details.
  3. A good breeder with be happy to welcome you to their home, where you can see mum interacting with their puppies.
  4. Ask the breeder for the KC registration certificate and worming information. A good breeder will ask their own questions and their premises will be clean and the dogs happy.

A good breeder will always do the following:

  • Health test their breeding stock
  • Take excellent care of their dogs
  • Provide information and follow up care for those people buying their puppies
  • Offer a lifetime of support to those who buy their puppies
  • A good and considerate breeder, will have no more than three litter from a female in her lifetime and steer clear of any breeder who has different breeds of dog.

If you are still unsure, contact The Kennel Club who will be only too pleased to help.

I would strongly advise that your children are totally committed to caring for pet, since forcing a child into pet ownership will not teach them responsibility and you should be prepared to do all the caring yourselves.

Cost

Animals should be for life and not just an impulse buy.

Apart from the initial cost of buying your pet, be it from a store, breeder or shelter, pets are a huge financial commitment.

They have dietary requirements, suitable housing, grooming, holiday care and most importantly, health care.

Insurance is vital to the well-being of your pet and some can live for many years.  The average lifespan of a cat is around 12 – 14 years and we have cared for some who have reached 20 and above!

Small furies

Rabbits, mice, gerbils and rabbits make wonderful pets, but they need to be handled regularly.  Rats especially, make wonderful companions for small children, since if socialized they are extremely interactive and affectionate, in fact  I liken them to little canines in a rodent form.

All furies require regular cleaning and for some children this can be monotonous once the novelty of pet ownership has worn off.  In this case, parents must be prepared to carry out these duties and where possible encourage children to continue with their routines.

Rabbits in particular can fall prey to the dreaded fly strike, a truly gruesome condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs on the rabbits rear ends.  It is therefore imperative that their living quarters are kept clean and they are checked daily, especially during the summer months.

Dogs/Cats

The above are the most popular choice of pets, with thousands of families welcoming them into our homes.

The majority of dogs are both loyal and affectionate, forming close bonds with their owners.

When choosing a dog, you should insure that he/she is the right breed, type for your family, which is why it is so important that you research your breed before making your decision.

Puppies and kittens need a lot of training and socialisation and may not be appropriate for young children.  Adopting a calm friendly adult dog/cat however, who has been temperament assessed, may be a far better companion for your family.  

As with all pet/child introductions, it is so important that you help your child to see the world through their eyes.  Children would react if they were poked or prodded unexpectedly, so you should explain that animals must be treated with respect and kindness.

So have you done your research?  If so, which pet did you get and did you adopt?

 

 

 

Best dog treats!

When I was training my German Shepherd Dog Luika, these biscuits were recommended to me by my trainer.  Being a vegetarian, they were not the easiest biscuits I had ever made, but trust me, your dog will love them and they make training a whole lot easier! I wore kitchen gloves and vegetarians, you may want a peg handy since they smell awful, although my dog slavered the whole time they were cooking, but I found that these were by far, the best dog treats for training.

Liver cakes 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450g) lamb or pig’s liver
  • 1 lb (450g) whole wheat flour (gluten free for dogs with allergies)
  • 2 – 3 organic eggs
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • water

Method

  1. Crack the eggs into a measuring jug.
  2. Add an equal volume of water to the measuring jug and whisk.
  3. Blend the liver and garlic in a food processor.
  4. Add the egg mixture and blend to a cake-like consistency.
  5. Empty contents into a lined baking tray.
  6. Bake at Gas Mark 6 or 180 degrees for approximately 45 – 60 minutes (when cooked the cake should bounce back when pressed).
  7. Remove from the oven and peel off the lining paper
  8. Allow to cool.
  9. Divide into cubes and freeze.

German Shepherd Dogs have extremely thick coats and during the summer months he absolutely adores activities involving water and in order to cool him further I decided to look for some nice ice lolly treats.

You can use the normal ice-lolly moulds or yogurt pots, but do NOT use lolly sticks since your dog could easily choke on them. Please remember to use only natural ingredients in small amounts, avoiding anything toxic

Yogurt Ice treats

ingredients

  • 1 Cup of natural yogurt
  • 1 Cup of peanut butter

Method

  1. Mix the peanut butter and yogurt together.
  2. Place the mixture in a freeze proof container and place it in the freezer.
  3. After a couple of hours, you have some delicious ice treats for your dog!

Please remember to wait 10 – 15 minutes before giving them to your dog in order to avoid freezer burn on their tongues.

Ice lollies

If you want to make ice lollies, chose something that your dog particularly loves such as chopped carrot, cooked meat, banana etc. just pour water into your container of choice (remember to use a container unique to your dog) and add your ingredients.

Please remember that some fruits are toxic to dogs such as grapes and raisins, so PLEASE do your homework before selecting your ingredients.

Being the owner of three extremely spoilt cats, I thought I would include a recipe for your feline family and tuna toast is a real hit with mine.

Tuna toast

  • Lightly toast a slice of bread
  • Cut the toast into cubes
  • Brush the toast with a little fresh fish oil
  • Sprinkle the toast with some tuna flakes
  • Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until golden brown

Leave to bool before serving Your cats will find this absolutely PURRfect 😊

Please note: Some animals have allergic reactions to foods just like us, so PLEASE do your research and beware of inadvertently feeding your pet toxins.

When feeding treats be mindful that they have different calorie values and adjust their regular food accordingly.

 

Alabama Rot – Stop Alabama Rot

 

 

Our pet sitters were warned to be vigilant about this awful disease when first reported in 2012.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alabama Rot are skin lesions, ulcers and or sores, which can appear on a dog’s legs, body, mouth or tongue and within days this can lead to acute kidney failure.

We continue to liaise closely with vets in all areas of the country where our dog sitting team work and receive regular updates as and when new cases are reported.

Origins

This potentially deadly disease was first identified in the USA in the 80’s in Greyhounds and has been reported in at least 27 counties in England and Wales, while some cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to be confirmed.

It is a growing worry for both dog owners and professional pet and dog sitters. Since the health and well-being of our client’s dogs are paramount, we remain alert at all times.

Areas of confirmed cases

From the information we have received, it appears that Alabama Rot is understood to be more prevalent in wet weather, especially in muddy woodland and particularly following heavy rainfall.  There have been confirmed cases as far North as Scotland, The New Forest in Southern England and more recently Devon.  In fact, we understand that one New Forest veterinary practise reported in March 15, that there had been over 102 suspected new cases in the UK, including 51 deaths, which were confirmed by postmortems.

Stopping the rot

Our dog sitting team are keen to identify any reported cases, or areas affected by Alabama Rot,  so knowing the warning signs are vital. If Alabama rot is caught early enough, your vet can evaluate if he/she has contracted the dreaded disease.

It is advised that you keep dogs under close supervision when walking in muddy woodland, cleaning them thoroughly following their exercise.

Can my other pets contract Alabama rot?

To date it is not thought to affect other animals and we must keep this outbreak in context.

There are approximately 8.5 million dogs in the U.K, with only a small proportion having been affected by this disease.  However, vets are now asking us to take extra precautions when walking our dogs,  in order to help combat the disease and to contact your practise immediately, if you suspect that your dog may be affected.

 

 

Fireworks have no place in the modern world!

 

With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, it is time for pet owners to focus their attention to the safety and well-being of their pets over the New Year celebrations.

We continue to be appalled by the bombing atrocities caused by terrorism and yet every year at the end of November, the UK happily celebrates a failed bomb attempt to blow up the houses of Parliament! The connotations of which I find simply astounding.  What other country would pay homage to a historical terrorist!

I continue therefore, to be astonished that fireworks are legally sold to the general public.  They are explosives and by their very definition, can be lethal in the wrong hands.  They wreak havoc with our countryside, causing stress to our wildlife and livestock and should only be used in the hands of trained Pyrotechnicians.

Pet owners are constantly warned to keep their pets indoors during the Bonfire and New Year celebrations, but what of our livestock and wildlife!  We cannot bring our  horses into the safely of our living rooms and even the calmest can be spooked during this time.

Horses

It is heartbreaking to recall incidences of horse fatalities.  More recently Nelly Shell, who was left heartbroken when her beloved horse suffered  severe injuries having become terrified and ran into barbed wire surrounding his paddock.  His injuries were so severe that she had to make the heart wrenching decision to have him put to sleep.

Karen Mills is also calling for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the general public, following the tragic death of her beloved horse, Shiloh.  He was found dead in his field, tangled in wire fencing.  His owner believes he was spooked by fireworks which led to the accident.  She also stated that there were nearby displays taking place!

Environment

What of the dangers to our environment.  November 5th is  the most polluted day in the UK calendar.  Rockets contain residues of unburnt propellants and colourants and some of this finds its way into our lakes and riviers.  Researches have collected airborne particles which were found to deplete lung defences which exceeded those from traffic sources which suggests a far greater toxicity.

It is common knowledge that the basic ingredient of fireworks is gunpower, however, it is the cocktail of chemicals and heavy metal that pose the most concern.  Barium  is the ingredient used to produce the vivid green colour, which is both poisonous and radioactive.  Rubidium, cadmium and other toxic components are used which can cause respiratory and other health issues.

In short, fireworks can unleash a shower of toxins into our atmosphere, soil and water.  Yet another good excuse to ban them completely.

Domestic pets

The worse fear case I have seen during my years as a pet sitter, was a beautiful young Staffie whom we walked on an ad hoc basis.  He was a big lad, with a soft heart and a tail that wagged for England.  Imagine my shock to hear from his owner that on the lead up to bonfire night, he suffered a heart attack following what she described as supersonic booms and died shortly after.  Despite her best efforts at calming him, he failed to respond and I doubt she will ever fully recover from his loss.

Instances of animal cruelty also soar in the run up to Bonfire night and one cat was forced to have his leg amputated following what was described as a twisted attack.

Should we really be investing in products such as thunder shirts, and drugs to make fireworks more tolerable to our domestic pets?  My answer to that is no, since this is easily avoidable by restricting them to organise displays and minimising the noise that they generate.

Let us also look at the example set by country who are now insisting that fireworks are restricted to one day celebrations and are therefore using ‘silent’ ones. The Italian town of Callechhio, who employs a ban on loud pyrotechnics.  This was following a bid to ease sufferers of post traumatic stress, pets, livestock, children, wildlife and those of a nervous disposition).  Edinburghs famous New Year celebrations could also see a switch to a silent fireworks, an example that I hope will see many cities following.

Chinese Lanterns.

I would also like to add the dangers of Chinese Lanterns, which have proved extremely harmful to our wildlife.

Lanterns are long been a symbol of beauty as they light up our night skys but they pose a significant threat and can cause fires.

In 2011 a roof fire was caused as a result of one falling onto a family home.  The fire spread to within feet of sleeping children, who were thankfully evacuated when a neighbour was alerted by the flames and called the emergency services.

These lanterns can carry for miles before they land and when ingested animals can suffer internal bleeding, leading to a slow and painful death.   Birds can become entangled in fallen frames, suffering stress and injury in their attempt to get free.  This can lead to starvation and marine life can be endangered by the debris falling into the sea.

Landowners are now calling for a complete ban following cases of injured livestock and fire authorities have united in their support.

The U.K is known to the rest of the world as being a nation of animal lovers, so please think twice before using fireworks and Chinese lanterns to celebrate the New Year.  If you simply must use fireworks, please consider the silent ones.

Keeping Pets Safe In The Winter Months

We all know that dogs and cats are happiest and healthiest kept indoors, but even cats who have access to outside require protection from extreme weather conditions such as cold, wind and extreme heat.  With the temperatures set to plummet this week, it is time to spare a thought for all those animals who are kept outdoors.

Although snow may be a great source of fun for the family, you should always be prepared for the hazards it may bring, especially for our outdoor pets, so here are a few  tips for keeping them safe during the cold winter weather.

Doggie do’s and don’ts during the winter months.

  • Short haired dogs such as Greyhounds and Chihuahuas can be really sensitive to cold weather and benefit greatly from wearing coats during exercise.
  • Pavements are usually salted during snow fall, so remember to wash pads and feet  since it can be an irritant.
  • NEVER exercise off lead near rivers or lakes. They can become frozen and although the majority of dogs are strong swimmers, prevention is better than cure!
  • Be mindful of slippery conditions. The elderly should refrain from putting themselves and their dog at risk.  You can always entertain them inside until conditions improve.
  • Wearing bright or reflective clothing is advisable for both dog and owner to be seen by motorists, during dark winter evenings.
  • If your dog is under active during the winter months do not forget to cut back on his calories. Extra weight can cause health problems so please do not kill with kindness!
  • Dogs should NEVER be left outside in freezing conditions.

Cat’s survival guide

  • The majority of cats like to remain inside during the cold winter months, but if your cat does enjoy snowy conditions ensure that they have access to indoors. If there is no cat flap, keep them inside as cats can suffer from hypothermia and develop frostbite.
  • If you are keeping your cats inside, a litter tray should be provided.
  • Cat flaps can become blocked in heavy snowfall, so if your cat does venture outside,  ensure they are checked and cleared regularly.
  • Cats adore warm places and often gravitate to the warmth of a car engine to keep warm. This can cause them to be trapped without food and water so check before making your journey.

Hutches

  • If you really cannot bring your little furies indoors during the cold winter months, hutches should be positioned so that extreme snow/rain cannot get in and covered with an old blanket or sacking. Many of our clients use an old tarpaulin under a hutch to provide extra warmth, but remember when covering with any material, to leave the front clear in order that your pets can still enjoy daylight.
  • If a garage is to be their winter home, ensure that they have good ventilation (by a window) and an area that is damp and draft free. Fumes from your car can be fatal so do not use a garage that is used by a car.  Out of sight should not mean out of mind, so do not forget them.
  • Pets enjoy a thicker coat during the winter months, which can moult with constantly changes in temperature. Please therefore do not bring them inside at night to be put out again during the day.  This could also cause stress and further vulnerability to the cold.
  • Remember to add extra bedding and change it regularly.
  • Water bottles can often freeze over when left outside, so these should also be checked on a regular basis to ensure that your pet(s), can still drink.  Insulation sleeves can be purchased from good pet stores and if the water does freeze change for another as defrosted water can cause tummy upsets.
  • For those people who think ‘well wild rabbits live outside’, should be mindful that they have underground burrows which are dry and draught free and are able to snuggle up to other bunnies!
  • You can line the floor of your hutch with a layer of newspaper and extra hay/straw and you can now purchase a heat pad, but please remember to read and follow the instructions fully before use.
  • Hutches should be kept clean throughout the year whatever the weather.

It is worth remembering that rabbits are communal animals and should never be kept alone. Kept in pairs they will be able to enjoy the warmth and comfort of each other, but check the sex of each one before pairing to ensure that you are not over run with their offspring.

Pets rely on us for their well being and safety, especially during harsh weather conditions, but if in any doubt, please contact your veterinary practice who will happily offer advise without charge.