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?

 

 

 

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.

 

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.
IMG_0938
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.

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 Insurance

At Nina’s Nannies for Pets, we have always been keen advocates of pet insurance. Ensuring that your pets medical requirements and veterinary bills are taken care of is of the utmost importance. If your animal becomes ill and requires urgent medical treatment, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the financial implications.

You would not think twice about insuring your vehicle or home and yet there are still many pet owners who fail to insure their pets. You are however, far more likely to claim on your pet insurance compared to the anything else!

There has been huge advances in veterinary treatments over the years and the costs can spiral, running into hundreds if not thousands of pounds!. As well as medical expense, cover will also typically include legal expenses should your pet cause injury to a third party. It can also cover the cost of advertising if your pet is lost and even a reward for their safe return. A more expensive policy can also offer a payout, should you be forced to cancel your holiday if your pet becomes sick.

Although cats and dogs are the easiest pets to find insurance, other animals can be covered – even exotics. However, you may have to search for a specialist provider if your pet is a bearded dragon!

Knowing that you are covered by reliable and affordable insurance offers complete peace of mind and allows your focus to be on their care and recovery.

We have always been dedicated to offering consumers the best possible care for their pets which is why you can now visit our Pet Comparison Directory.

 

Hopping Mad!

Although I was working this morning, I planned to have my first afternoon off this year!

I was driving to my last appointment when I spied a baby rabbit sitting hunched up in the middle of the road. I tried blasting my horn, but after a few minutes I realised that this was a very sick little bunny.

I put my hazard lights on, stopped the traffic and put bunny into the cat box I carry in my car. It’s eyes looked particularly swollen, an obvious sign of  myxomatosis.

I immediately called the local vets surgery, who unconcerned, informed me to put it back into the wild.  Should I take it in to the surgery, it would be immediately put to sleep!

I then contacted St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, who were horrified with this advice and stated that under NO circumstances should I put the poor creature back into the wild.  This course of action  would see it die a long and painful death, and added that this was a typical reaction from a vet!

An hour later, the rabbit was safety in the capable hands of the wild life hospital, who are hopeful that with treatment, she will pull through.

To say that I was angry is an understatement, since it was nothing but callousness to suggest I return the rabbit anywhere near that busy road. Not to mention it being pecked alive by the crows!

I am losing all faith in our veterinary system and hope to God, that this is not a typical reaction from our vets.  It is easy to drive around a road casualty, or worse still, run it over.  It only takes a little while to see that it gets the treatment which could potentially save its life.