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.

 

Christmas Dangers for Pets

We may still only be in November, but already Christmas trees and decorations are being hauled from the loft and with them come potential dangers to our pets.

Last Christmas, within 24 hours of publishing my vlog about the dangers of chocolate, I found myself and German Shepherd Dog Luika, in the vets at Leighton Buzzard, having his stomach pumped!

Such an embarrassment and a fine example of how quickly and easily dogs can capitalise on our mistakes.

Being a pet sitter, we have frequent visits from happy clients brandishing bottles of wine and boxes of chocolates.  All of which we donate to the staff of  local rescue centres as a thank you for their hard work throughout the year.  Sadly they are all to often forgotten and without their dedication and hard work, pets would never find suitable homes.

On this particular day, my husband had answered the door, to discover a beautifully wrapped parcel on our doorstep.  He was late for an appointment and left it on kitchen workshop at the same time as I had answered the phone.

I turned my back for no more than five minutes to discover on my return, a demolished parcel, an empty box of Baileys finest liqueurs and a rather sorry and furtive looking German Shepherd Dog!

I immediately reached for the phone to put our vets on alert, grabbed his lead and made a dash to the car.  Luckily it was only a few minutes drive, who immediately administered an injection to induce vomiting.

For those of you who’s dog has never required a vomit inducing drug, I can assure you it is not a pretty sight.  The next half an hour was spent watching my poor pouch, throwing up vast quantities of chocolate until the vet was satisfied that his system was completely clear.

With over eighteen years working within the pet care industry and a lifetime of owning pets and offering advice on my blog, I was aghast that this could happen to MY dog!  It takes but a few minutes for your pet to find danger and Christmas is a time full of them for our pets.

Every string of tinsel, each Poinsettia and even a Christmas dinner, can hold dangers for our pets.  Cats in particular, simply adore the allure of the Christmas tree decorations, so should never be left alone with its temptations and our pet sitters have lost count of the Poinsettia’s that have been relegated to a locked cupboard. Only last year, a client recalled how her prize Pug guzzled the contents of an unattended glass of sherry, which saw him spending Christmas night at the veterinary surgery, followed by a rather hefty vet bill!

The majority of Christmas dangers can be avoided however, so have a wonderful Christmas and remember to keep your pets safe.

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Keeping Your Dogs & Cats Cool In The Summer Heat

As the temperatures soared in late July, so did cases of dogs left in hot cars and one poor dog was left to fry on the hottest day of the year!  Sadly he died, despite the best efforts of those people who tried to save him.

The RSPCA and other animal welfare charities only recently launched a campaign to highlight the dangers of not keeping your pets cool in the summer heat and despite warnings dogs are still being left in hot cars!

Let me ask dog owners one question.  Have you ever walked barefoot on a hot pavement?  If not, please try, since that is what your dog feels each time he is walked in the midday sun!

We have strict guidelines with regard to our pet care services, in that dogs are never exercised during periods of intense heat.  They are walked early morning and late evening.  When the mercury rises, dogs are encouraged to settle on a stone floor and in the coolest part of the house.

Pet Sitters are always careful to follow these simple procedures.

Damp towels

If your dog does start to show signs of overheating, put a towel under the cold water tap, wringing it out before placing it over your dog.  This is an excellent tip for bringing down your dogs temperature as explained by our local veterinarian.  Our German Shepherd Dog absolutely loves playing with water, hence we have great fun with the hose on a hot sunny day and placing a paddling pool in the garden will prove to be a real hit with your canine friend.

Cooling mats

These can be purchased quite cheaply and if you do not have stone floors in your kitchen a cooling mat is a great alternative.  Just ensure that you buy the correct size for your dog in order that they receive the full benefit.

Fans

Keeping your dogs & cats cool in the summer heat

Keeping you dogs & cats cool in the summer heat

Like our cats, yours will probably gravitate to a favourite area of the house, so make that area cool by including a fan or air conditioning unit.

Sunburn

Did you know that even your pets can suffer sunburn, especially white dogs and cats and with this comes the increased risk of cancer.  Especially dogs with fine hair, like hairless breeds such as The Chinese Crested or The Mexican Hairless Dog.

White dogs are particularly susceptible to sunburn, just like blond haired people have a greater propensity to burn.  It is therefore important that you apply a dog/cat sunscreen and use a quality one.  It should be applied to the nose, ears, groin and any area that is normally pink. Many human sunscreens can be toxic to your pet, especially those that contain PABA or zinc oxide, so  if in doubt, ask your vet.

Hutches

Ensure that hutches are removed from full sun and if possible, check them regularly and bring them inside to the coolest area of your house.

Fans can be used, but ensure that it is pulling the cool air in and not blowing against it.

Ensure that  water is changed regularly and the hutches are kept clean.  Fly strike is a real problem in rabbits and keeping their area clean is essential.

Water

Make sure that water bowls are filled regularly giving your dogs/cats fresh cold water throughout the day and you can include some ice cubes to keep it cool. We always have a few water bowls around the house, in case one is spilt.

We are lucky enough to have a feature pond in a garden, which is wonderful for the birds in hot weather.  You may not have a pond, so why not fill a large bowl with water and watch  the wildlife as they use it to keep cool.

We all look forward to the summer, but the heat can prove fatal to our furry family.  Remember to keep them cool and it will be far more enjoyable for both pet and owner.

If you are looking for tips to keep your pets healthy in the hot summer heat, this guide is for you,  if in doubt however, always consult your local veterinarian, who are sure to have leaflets and answer any questions on heat related problems.

 

 

 

Keeping your pets safe in the sun

As the heat wave approaches please remember that pets dehydrate extremely quickly in hot weather.
We love to spend sunny days outside with friends and family enjoying outside activities, but some of our activities such as ball games etc. can be extremely dangerous for our dogs!

Here are some handy tips for pet owners:

1. Always ensure that your pets have access to fresh water .
2. NEVER leave your pets in your vehicle. On hot days your car will become a furnace and within a short time
this could lead to fatal heatstroke.
3. Take all outside pet homes/hutches into the shade and ensure that any indoor cages are moved to a shaded area
of your house.
3. Rabbits are particularly prone to maggot infestations, so ensure that their hutches are cleaned regularly and
their bottoms checked frequently.
4. NEVER walk your dog in the hot sun. Save your outdoor time for the early morning or evening when temperatures
fall. The air will be easier to breath and the pavements will be cooler on the pads of their paws.
5. Keep your dogs away from barbecues. The food and drink offered to your guests can be poisonous to dogs!
6. Food can go off very quickly in hot weather, so remove any leftovers quickly.
7. Ponds can evaporate in hot weather so check frequently and refill as required.
8. Always ensure that outdoor ponds have a shaded area.
9. Do not forget that pets can also suffer sunburn. Pets that are shaved, or pale. White nosed dogs and ears
are prone to sun induced tumours. In fact any area where the skin is thin and there is little or no hair
should be protected. There are specific sunscreens designed for pets, but sensitive skin or baby sunscreens
can be used as well.
10. Paddling pools are not only a great source of fun for your children, they can also provide an excellent way of
cooling down for your dog.

Be alert for the signs of heatstroke. Symptoms of overheating, are excessive panting, difficulty breathing, extreme thirst, thick saliva and increased heart rate and since our pets cannot speak , they rely on us for their well-being.
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Studies have found small and large breeds of dog are particularly susceptible to heatstroke and a darker coated dog is more likely to soak up the heat quicker than a lighted coated dog.

Flatter faced dogs such as Boxers or Pugs are more likely to suffer over heating since their wind pipes are narrower and they are more prone to overheating, so outside time should be restricted to toilet breaks only.
If you think that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, it is imperative that you seek emergency veterinary treatment. In the meantime you can put him onto a wet towel to help reduce his temperature.

Check list for your pet sitter

So you have booked your holiday, engaged a pet sitter and are frantically completing your last minute tasks.
Your cases are packed and hidden, for fear of spooking kitty and Tom who are both looking suspiciously at the front door. Clutching your passport, frantically checking you remembered the foreign currency, and of course your mobile phone for which you have become emotionally attached!

One last look around, a quick ‘be good while I am away’, to the cats and your gone, but what about your pet sitter?
Last minute note

A last minute note is essential. While your pet sitter will have already taken extensive notes , it is vital to inform your pet sitter of any changes to your mobile telephone number, emergency contact number, travel arrangements, hotel details, departure and arrival times.

Bins

Nobody likes to arrive home to a full dustbin and since the black bin, the green bin, the glass bin (and any other bin that has been added to the fortnightly collection), are put out on alternate weeks, you must instruct your pet sitter, which colour bin will require emptying while you are away.
Behaviour changes

Each pet is an individual and as Kitty or Rover reach their twilight years, adjustments may need to be made.
Cats can be prolific hiders. So alert your pet sitter where to look. Should your sitter be worried if cats do not come out to feed, or in the case of house cats, will they be waiting at the door in the hope of a quick escape!
As they age, cats and dogs can often suffer a decline in memory loss and their senses, sight and hearing can deteriorate, so please remember to inform your pet sitter.

Favorite toys

Dogs especially, will usually have a favourite toy which they just cannot be without. Cats too can be extremely fond of a catnip mouse, or curling up on the client’s old jumper, so alert your pet sitter in order that they may use them to interact or accompanying dogs on their walks.

Medications and recurrent illness

Is Kitty or Rover on any medications and if so, how often should it be administered, and for what reason? Are there likely to be any side effects and if so what kind?
Has your vet been informed of your holiday dates and that a pet sitter will be caring for your pet during your absence? This is important information and although your sitter should have a veterinary release form, a note on your pets file with any special considerations. harry in bed

The majority of vets will want to liaise with the owner should major surgery be required, so it is imperative that they have your contact details, or an appointed family member just in case important decisions need to be made.
Above are just a few things to remember for your sitter, in order that your pets will remain happy and healthy while you are away.

Emergencies may arise from time to time, such as a burst pipe in the winter, or a pond which needs topping up in the extreme heat, but a good pet sitter will take all this in their stride and whether you opt for a live in sitter, or just a pop in service, you should feel confident that your pets will be well cared for and safe on your return.

Choosing the right pet

Bringing a pet into your family is a big decision and it is extremely important that research is undertaken, in order that your pet will live a happy and healthy life.

These are just a few points to consider:-

  • Do you work and if so, how much time can you spend with your pet?
  • Are your children of an age to take any responsibility for your pet?
  • Can you deal with a high maintenance pet?
  • Do you have the time?
  • Have you enough outside space to accommodate their needs?
  • If you’re in rented accommodation, are pets allowed?
  • Can you afford the expense of a pet, such as vet fees, food allowance, and insurance?
  • Are you physically active enough to exercise your pet should you chose a dog?
  • Is there someone who can care for your pet during holidays and if not, can you afford a pet sitter?
  • What about your home. Do you have a garden and if so, is it large enough to accommodate a dog?

Homework

It is essential that a potential pet owner does their research before taking the first steps into pet ownership.  For example, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are all social creatures and need company to lead a happy existence.  All too often these social animals are kept alone and therefore lead a solidarity existence.  Contrary to popular belief Guinea Pigs are not always happy to share their living quarters with a rabbit!

Dogs

If a dog is your preferred choice, you should firstly consider their needs.  Different breeds each have their own characteristics, so it is vital to research which dog would best suit your environment and family.

All dogs need exercise and some require at least two good walks a day.  For example, if you are a fairy sedentary person, you may wish to choose an older dog, which does not need a huge amount of exercise.

Dogs are also very social animals and need to be part of your family and are a long term commitment.

Cats

Contrary to popular belief, cats are not aloof creatures who fend for themselves.  They may not require the attention of dogs, but they still enjoy the interaction and stimulus of family life.

Cats can live up to fifteen and beyond so you must be able to provide long term commitment should a kitten be you’re preferred choice.

Rabbits

Rabbits live in large social groups and two will ensure that they have company.

They need a large hutch (the larger the better), an outside run and daily care.  Handling them each day will ensure that they are comfortable being held and cuddled and can easily adapt to living in your home (house rabbits).

They have a delicate digestive system, so it is vital that they be fed a varied and appropriate diet.

When keep your rabbit outside, you must ensure that they are safe from predators and that the hutch is not exposed to extreme cold or heat.  It is essential that hutches are moved inside during extreme cold and enjoy shade when it is hot.

Sadly rabbits can be the ‘forgotten’, pets, so please ensure that you have the time and love to afford them should you decide to bring one into your home.

Please be mindful that animals in whatever form are a life long commitment. Your new pet could live for anything from two to twenty years and an impulse buy may not be what you expect further down the line.

Rescue pets

There a thousands of abandoned and unwanted pets up and down the country, all desperately seeking a new home.

They will be health checked, microchipped, vaccinated and in the case of dogs, temperament tested, to establish the type of home/family they will best suit.

If however, you decide that you want a particular breed of dog/cat and you still want to help rescue, please contact the breed specific organisations and they will be able to help.  Mixed breeds are not the only animals desperate to be rehomed, so please give them a chance first.

Should you decide that you want to purchase a pedigree dog or cat, PLEASE seek the advise of a veterinary practice or contact the Kennel Club.  Remember to ask the breeder if you can see the mother/father and ask for their registration papers and health certificate which should include worming and vaccinations.

Watch how your puppy, kitten interacts with their siblings and avoid those who have been reared in outdoor kennels/catteries.  Most importantly, do NOT buy from an online ads, pet shops, or dealers who have multiple breeds. They may well be from puppy farms who take little or no interest in your puppy/kittens wellbeing.

The RSPCA and Blue Cross have a wealth of information and free booklets to help you may the right choice.  There are rescue centres throughout the country, who will be delighted to help you select a pet who will fit right into your family.

Where’s Mum!

She has never felt a loving hand,

Nor grass beneath her feet

She lives alone and has never known,

A life that was complete.

 

She cowers at the man who passes by,

She’s hungry tired & cold,

Her life is brief and spent in grief,

For the puppies she has never known.

 

She has never lazed by a comfy fire,

Nor felt a summer breeze,

Or seen the sun as her days began,

Nor rummaged through the autumn leaves.

 

She has never had a special friend,

Or seen an owners loving smile,

It is today her pups are taken away,

She only nursed them for a while.

 

For her life is spent producing litters,

And is therefore very brief

He doesn’t care, to see her lying there,

He doesn’t feel her grief.

 

She has no choice but to endure a life,

Of solitude, filth & pain,

Even her babies die, as he passes by,

She doesn’t even have a name.

 

This is the plight of a puppy farmed dog,

Hidden from society,

Where cruelty reigns until the end of their days,

But it doesn’t have to be.

 

Next time that you are looking for puppy,

Please remember this poem,

Please try and adopt, but if you really want to shop,

Remember to ask ‘Where is mum’

 

By Nina Cole – Inspired by our ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’, campaign

www.ninasnanniesforpets.co.uk

The Forgotten Rabit

During my eighteen years as a pet sitter, one animal in particular, seems to be the most forgotten – the humble rabbit.

You would think the film ‘Watership Down’, given its popularity, would have helped to educate people with regards to their living conditions and requirements, but sadly we continue to care for solitary rabbits, some living in cramped conditions and often overlooked in their garden hutches.

Rabbits are community animals that desperately need to live in groups.  In the wild a community can consist of up to a hundred individuals, living peacefully in their network of tunnels, so please do not deprive them from having company.

Hutches should incorporate outside space and be raised off the ground to allow air to circulate and prevent water logging.  It should also be secure and in the summer months, moved to shady position in your garden.

You should also be mindful that the winter can be perilously cold and your rabbits should be moved to a warmer area, where they will not be exposed to the elements.

A hutch can never be too big.  I have seen some ingenious living quarters, often designed and built by the owner.  Care should be taken however, to ensure that there are no sharp edges or escape routes and before attempting a ‘do it yourself hutch’, seek professional advice to ensure that the home is suitable, before the building commences.

It is essential that your hutch has both a living and sleeping area and large enough that your rabbits can hop around.  The outside space should be secure and safe from predators.

Frequent cleaning is an essential and a daily regime is extremely important. 

Any soiled hay/paper should be removed, and the toilet area cleaned. Beware of harmful cleaning products, so ensure that any products are rabbit friendly.

Dirty hutches can result in illness, such as sore feet and dirty bottoms, which can result in fly strike.  This is caused when the eggs of the fly are laid and then hatch into maggots, which unless caught quickly can be a killer.

For full details regarding animal care you can visit their website:-

http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/rabbits

Owning and caring for rabbits, requires exactly the same commitment as owning a kitten or puppy and they will delight their owners if you are well prepared.  So please do not allow yours, to be the forgotten rabbits!

Pet Theft

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, pet and home security is paramount, therefore the increase in pet thefts are extremely worrying!

Contrary to popular belief, it is not just dogs that are at risk of being taken! Horses and cats are also vulnerable and while home thefts are widely reported, dogs are now also being taken from outside shops and even whilst being walked!

There have also been reports of gangs that prowl Britain’s streets, stealing dogs to order.  They are identifying their victims by daubing the letter ‘K’ on driveways. Police report that  so called ‘lookouts’ are leaving the ‘K’ code in crayon or spray paint after finding valuable dogs worth stealing and selling on from unwitting owners’ gardens, so is it vital that dog owners are continually vigilant.

It is not just the owners who are being targeted.  Having worked closely with local animal shelters it seems even they are not immune from the thieves, so what can we do to safe guard our pets!

Here are a few basic tips –

  • Microchip your pet, and keep their details up to date.
  • Keep your garden secure and padlock your gate.  Thieves are less likely to target a secured garden.
  • Keep your pets inside when you are not at home.
  • Supervise your dog even in the garden.
  • Do not exercise your dog in remote locations.
  • Spay and neuter your pet, for they are less likely to stray from home.
  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car, or outside of a shop.
  • Be vigilant. Thieves will take every opportunity to snatch dogs that are being exercised off leash.
  • Take a photograph of your pet and make a note of any distinguishing features.  It may be required should they go missing.
  • Keep photographs of yourself with your pet, since it will help to identify you as the owner.
  • Vary the times and route in which walk with your dog.  High value dogs such as gun dogs can be targeted and snatched by criminals!

Are you aware, that a dog collar and tag is a legal requirement in identifying your dog, if she/he goes missing?  Please refrain however, from including your dogs name, since this is an added bonus for anyone wishing to lure your dog away.

Lastly and importantly, please ensure that any company, or persons unknown to you, have been thoroughly vetted before leaving your pets in their care.  Are they registered and if so, with whom!  Do you carry public liability insurance and can they provide a police background check to verify that their details are correct.

If the worst does happen and you believe that your dog has been stolen, report it to the police and insist that it is recorded as stolen and not lost. There is no central database for lost or stolen pets, so report them to as many agencies as possible and alert your local dog warden.

Social networking sites can prove invaluable in reunited pets with their owners, so use them.  Put up posters and mail shot your neighbourhood and notify, veterinary establishments and local shelters.

Most importantly, keep your pets safe.