Top tips for managing cystitis in cats

Cystitis in cats is a common reason for pet owners to take their pets to the vets. Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC) in cats is inflammation of the bladder and is a really common condition, but not a serious health concern. However, it can be very uncomfortable for your pet and can cause pain when urinating. cystitis in cats

Although in some cases of Cystitis in cats the cause is unclear, stress is thought to be the most common trigger. Changes in their routine or environment can lead to stress, which could include, moving home, car travel, inter-cat conflict, new family arrivals or pets, lack of exposure to the outdoors, or boarding in a cattery.

Signs of Cystitis in cats include:

  • Straining to urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating in unusual places
  • Licking the urinary opening

There could be several reasons why your cat may need help in maintaining normal urinary tract health. However, it is important to consult your vet who will be able to offer the most appropriate advice for your cat’s specific health requirements. In order for your cat to maintain a healthy quality of life, there are positive ways in which you help to manage their urinary tract health:

Water

Encourage your cat to consume more fresh water and present it in a way that your cat prefers. The aim of increasing water intake is to produce more dilute urine, which will be less irritating. Make sure you place their water bowl away from their food. Adding water to their food could be another way of encouraging them to consumer more.

Food

Wet food may be preferable to dry because of the increased water content. Consult your vet as to whether a diet change is appropriate. Offer the new diet in an additional separate container to allow your pet to express its preference.

Exercise

Encourage your pet to take more exercise as this helps to stimulate the bladder. Overweight cats can suffer from cystitis more than normal weight felines, so exercise and diet can play an integral role in maintaining your cat’s bladder health.

Minimise stress

To help minimise stress for your cat, their indoor environment should include opportunities for scratching, climbing, hiding and resting. If there is a local cat in the neighbourhood causing stress to your cat, try to prevent your cat from gaining access to the aggressor. It is also important that you stay calm during this time, as cats are very good at reading body language and can pick up on any stress you are feeling yourself.

Litter boxes

Litter boxes should be provided in several quiet, stress-free locations throughout the house, particularly in multi-cat households. There should be one litter tray per cat plus one. Litter should be non-scented and cleaned daily avoiding a strong disinfectant.

Senior cats

Cystitis can be more common in older cats, so it is important to take your senior cat for regular health checks. Regularly monitoring their bladder health can help to ensure that your cat has a better quality of life.

Consider natural supplements

Some pet supplements on the market contain natural ingredients, which can help to reduce irritation caused by Cystitis and increase comfort for your cat. Reducing stress is considered to be beneficial in the management of Cystitis in both cats and dogs.

Visit your vet

Your vet is best placed to monitor your cat’s health. It is important to have regular health checks with your local vet to ensure that your cat is receiving the best possible care.

Understanding allergies in pets

Just like their owners, allergies in pets are a common occurance with an estimated 20% of dogs suffering from them.

Allergies in pets can vary from food, environmental or household, and 10% of allergies in dogs are said to be food related, but many pets can suffer from more than one. There are certain breeds of cats and dogs that are more susceptible to allergies and most commonly affected. These include, Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels and Rex Cats. The type of allergy that your pet has can be hard to diagnose as many of the symptoms are almost identical. allergies in pets

Although they can suffer with more than one allergy, there are three common types that pets can develop:

  • Atopy (also known as Atopic Dermatitis)
  • Flea allergy
  • Food allergy

Other causes of common allergies in pets can include, pollen, mold spores, dust, feathers, perfumes, cleaning products and fleas.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy) is an allergy to something in the environment, such as pollen, molds, grass or dust mites. Pets with Atopic Dermatitis tend to have very itchy skin, usually it’s worse on their paws, ears, tummy and armpits. If your pet has Atopic Dermatitis they may be constantly scratching, licking and biting, which can make their skin red, sore and open to infection. Pets can develop Atopic Dermatitis at any age, although it can be more common in young dogs and in certain breeds, such as the West Highland Terrier (Westie). Common symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis can include itchy skin, ear infections, licking or chewing themselves, hair loss, dark/thickened skin, weepy eyes, bacterial skin infections and yeast infections.

Finding out what your pet is allergic to can be quite challenging as flea and food allergies can cause almost identical symptoms as Atopic Dermatitis. To help reduce symptoms and prevent future flare ups, your vet may recommend steps to avoid triggers, such as:

  • Avoid walks when the pollen count is high
  • Rinsing your dog off after walking in long grass
  • Avoiding sprays (except flea sprays) in the home
  • Vacuum and dust regularly
  • Keep your pet up-to-date with their flea treatment, symptoms are likely to flare up if they are bitten.

Some pet supplements on the market contain high quality Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin-E, which can naturally calm sensitive skin, sooth dry, flaky skin and reduce itching and scratching.

Food allergies in petsallergies in pets

A food allergy is when a pet’s immune system overreacts to one or more of the ingredients in their diet. Symptoms usually include skin problems, and /or tummy problems (such as diarrhea and vomiting). Common signs that your pet could be suffering from a food allergy could include:

  • Itchy skin
  • A rash, sore red skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore tummy
  • Excessive wind

Food allergies in dogs can develop at any stage of their life but are most common when they are less than a year old. In cats, they can develop by 4-5 years old. It’s not always easy trying to find what your pet may be allergic too. A food elimination diet for a period of 8-12 weeks is often used to diagnose a food allergy. Dogs tend to be allergic to protein (meat or dairy). Some dogs can also be allergic to other ingredients such as wheat and grains.

Cats can be allergic to products such as beef, dairy or fish. If a food allergy is well managed, your pet can live a perfectly normal life. However, if their food allergy is left untreated, they can have a serious effect on your pet’s health and quality of life. To stop your pet from having symptoms in future, your vet may advise you to only feed your dog or cat food that contains ‘safe’ ingredients.

Pets are unwittingly fed an unnatural diet, which are high in Omega-6 fatty acids, derived from high levels of cereals and vegetable proteins. Too much Omega-6 can have a negative effect on a pet’s skin health. Counteracting the Omega-6 imbalance with Omega-3s can help to reduce inflammation from allergies.

Flea allergies

When your pet gets bitten by a flea, it injects saliva into their skin. Flea saliva is irritating to most animals, including humans and can trigger an allergic reaction in some cats and dogs. Everyday itching from a flea bite is not the same as a flea allergy. A pet that is allergic to flea bites will have a skin reaction every time they are bitten, which can cause intense itching and inflammation of the skin. Other common signs of an allergic reaction to fleas include hair loss, over grooming, lumpy skin, red, inflamed skin and fleas.

If your pet has a flea allergy, as an owner you need to ensure it is managed properly. A poorly managed flea allergy could cause severe skin disease and illness. With the advice and treatment from your vet and a good flea control, most pet’s with flea allergies can live a happy and healthy life.

Your vet will be able to offer advice on the best flea treatment sufficient for your pet. Be sure to also treat areas of your home where your pet may venture and make sure you treat both indoor and outdoor cats as outdoor cats can bring fleas inside. A flea treatment is often not enough to control the problem, a repellent is usually needed too, and you will need to make sure your home and pets are flea-free all year round.

Getting to know…

Veterinary Tissue Bank

The Veterinary Tissue Bank was co-founded by Dr Peter Myint and Professor John Innes to meet the unmet needs for a European veterinary community tissue bank and a desire to progress the field of veterinary surgery. Here, Companion Life gets to know more about the organization and the impact of their work.

Could you tell us a little about the work you do at the Veterinary Tissue Bank?

Veterinary Tissue Bank is Europe’s first and only tissue bank for pets, where pet owners of dogs and cats can donate tissues from their pets at the end of their lives. The donated tissues are used in transplants, in other dogs and cats, which need tissues for various surgical procedures. Bone transplants are used to treat in orthopedic cases, such as broken bones, bone cancer, arthritic joints, spinal fusion, etc.; cornea is used to restore sight; and tendons are used to replace torn ligaments. A single donation from a dog or a cat gives transplants to over 60 recipients. To date, Veterinary tissue bank has supplied nearly 10,000 transplants.

What are the health benefits of Stem Cell Therapy for pets?

Osteoarthritis is thought to affect 20% of the dog population, and stem cell therapy is given to treat the pain in arthritic joints. Stem cells are isolated from a small fat sample and are cultured from just a few to millions in number, before they are injected back into the joints of the same dog or cat. Some of the cells are stored frozen, in case a future need arises for them. Following the injection, the animal is expected to become pain free within a few days. Subsequent injections may be needed; however, this can readily be met by re-culturing the frozen cells in the tissue bank without having to harvest another fat sample.

How effective is Stem Cell Therapy?

From the experience of Veterinary Tissue Bank, stem cell therapy provides 80% positive response rate in dogs, shown by the LOAD (Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs) score – a validated, owner completed questionnaire. Of the remaining 20% of non-responders, half responded to a second stem cell injection, giving an overall 90% positive response to stem cell therapy when the second injection is included.

 Is tissue donation only for dogs and cats?

Currently, we only run a donation program for dogs and cats, as these are the species that most frequently need tissue grafts.

How can pet owners sign their pets up to become a pet donor?

The concept of pet tissue donation and transplantation is the same as that in humans. It is also difficult for veterinary staff to raise the subject of donation at a time of great distress for the owner. However, not asking the owner means, effectively, making the decision on their behalf; and for them, it may not be the right one. Registering as a tissue donor in advance can facilitate the donation process, and owners can sign up by visiting www.vtbank.org and submitting a form online. Veterinary tissue bank then issues a pet donor card and informs the practice of the registration.

Rabbit grooming needs

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert. Nut

Like most animals, rabbits generally do a good job of keeping themselves clean but there are certain times of year and specific things they may need help with. Some breeds, especially Angora’s, Lionheads and other long-haired rabbits, may need more help.

Rabbits should NEVER be bathed. Completely submerging rabbits in water can lead them to go into shock and they can get a chill easily when drying. If they need any kind of bath, usually if their back end has matted, veterinary advice should be sought as to why this has occurred and a bottom bath using minimum water can be carried out. Holding their bottom safely and securely taking care to support their spine over a bowl with a second person can allow for any areas that are matted or particularly dirty to be cleaned safely. If you feel your rabbit needs a full bath then questions must be asked as to why and veterinary advice sought – do not do this at home.

Brushing can be a social experience and enjoyable for your rabbits, once they become used to it so starting early is vital. Offering treats when grooming them and taking things slowly and calmly can make sure that it is associated with a positive experience. While most of the time they will groom themselves, especially during moulting they will need help. Brushing daily will prevent your rabbit ingesting loose fur which can risk causing impactions and potential gut blockages.

The best brush to use is a soft silicone brush, it can help to attract loose fur as well as being gentle. Pinned brushes and those with blades to remove more fur can not only risk cutting a rabbit’s fine skin but can remove too much fur leading to bald patches. Silicone brushing gloves can be useful if starting the process, making it more like a stroke than a brush!

Ears should be checked with each groom but shouldn’t need regular cleaning. Lop eared rabbits are more likely to have issues with ear wax build up due to their head and ear shapes, so regular checks to ensure no problems is important. If you are concerned by ears looking red or sore please seek veterinary advice. Regular checks should be made on the length of claws, they should not be protruding as they are at risk of getting caught and torn. Clipping claws can be done at home but they must not be clipped short enough to catch the quick, the blood vessel that runs inside the nail, as this will cause pain and bleeding. Rabbits should never be held on their backs to do this, it causes them to go into a trance but this causes significant stress and is not necessary.

Grooming is a brilliant opportunity to health check your rabbit, checking their teeth, their weight and for any lumps and bumps, not to mention giving extra time to socialise with your pet!

Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).

A guide to travelling with your pet

For pets, car journeys can often be a distressing event and some pets can become anxious and overwhelmed.

Many pets associate the car with a trip to the vets or kennels, which can lead to stress. As more and more pets become part of the family, many owners are now also taking their dogs on holiday with them rather than leaving them in kennels. A car can be outside your pet’s usual environment and one that is not particularly familiar to them. So, planning and preparing for the journey in advance can help make the trip less stressful, especially if it is a long journey.

Whether you are planning a trip to the vets, kennels or on holiday, there are important steps to take and positive things to do that will make the journey stress free for yourself and your pet:

Get them used to the car when young

Introduce your pet to the car at a young age. Pets who are used to travelling in the car from a young age are more likely to be relaxed and happy during car trips. Start by sitting with them in a parked car to get them used to the new environment.

Take small trips

For anxious pets who don’t like being in the car, take them on short drives to get them used to the car. Short trips to the park or pet shop will help them to see the car as something positive.

Reward with treats

Reward your pet for good behaviour in the car, use treats to help them get used to the car while it is stationary and play games in the car. This will help your pet to remove any negativity that is associated with the car.

Secure your pet

Make sure that your pet is safe and secure in the car. Use a cat carrier to transport your cat whilst dogs can be secured using a cage or harness. This will help to keep pets safe from injury during sharp breaking or should an accident happen.

A loose pet could also distract you while driving and even get in the way of the steering wheel or the brake pedal. The Highway Code states that drivers must ‘make sure dogs and other animals are suitably restrained’ in your car. If you don’t follow the Highway Code, you could be considered to be driving without due care and attention.

Some insurance policies also require you to restrain your pet properly in the car. A loose pet could break the terms of your insurance and leave you with a huge bill to pay if you’re in an accident. It may also invalidate your pet insurance if they are injured and need treatment.

Limit food before travel

If possible, try not to feed your pet less than three hours prior to travelling. This will help to reduce travel sickness or any accidents in the car. Your vet may also be able to prescribe something to help with their travel sickness.

Keep pets cool

Keep your pets cool during any journeys. Be aware of your pet’s temperature and pop the air conditioning on or open the window if it gets too warm. Be sure not to open the window too far and don’t let you dog hang his head out of the window as this could cause injury.

Play music

Music, toys or blankets could help your pet to stay calm during the journey. Some dogs travel better when music is playing in the car. You could also give your dog or cat their favourite blanket or item of clothing with your scent on to keep them calm.

Take breaks

If it’s a long journey, take plenty of breaks to allow your dog to stretch their legs, go to the toilet and have some water. Never leave your pet alone in the car, while you are in a service station.

Don’t leave pets alone

Never leave pets alone in the car. The temperature in the car can warm up really quickly and cats and dogs can’t cool themselves down in the same way as their owners. They can overheat very fast if left in the car and could get into a critical condition quickly.

Get a health check

It’s important to make sure that your pet is in good health to be able to make the journey and is tolerable. Some pets can find it distressing and overwhelming, especially if it’s a long trip.

Consider using pet calming supplements

Many pets can get anxious during car journeys and some pet supplements on the market such as Nutracalm or Vetpro can help to naturally calm these anxious pets.

 

 

 

Getting to know…

Melanie Sainsbury, Veterinary Nurse, Natures Menu

Registered Veterinary Nurse, Melanie Sainsbury, lives in Suffolk with her husband, pet dog and collection of chickens, quails and rabbits. She has over 15 years’experience working in various small animal practices and has been Veterinary Education Manager since 2014 for Natures Menu, the UK’s number one for raw and natural pet food, where she helps to promote raw and natural feeding. Here, Melanie explains what raw feeding is and its benefits:

How can owners identify that their pet’s diet is poor?

All owners want to ensure their pets are happy and healthy, and one of the best ways to achieve this is through a balanced diet. A bad diet can manifest itself in several ways leading to digestion issues, unpleasant stools, skin allergies and irritations, serious weight gain leading to obesity and unstable energy levels.

Dogs and cats can thrive on a natural raw meat diet and nutritionally balanced, complete raw feeding aims to give them a diet appropriate to their digestive systems in a safe format. It has been shown to have a positive impact on a pet’s health and wellbeing on countless occasions.

The commonly reported benefits of switching to a healthy, raw diet include fresher breath, cleaner, whiter teeth, more stable energy levels, reduction of allergies and intolerances, increased palatability and less flatulence. For pets with sensitive stomachs, a raw diet has also been known in some cases to improve digestion.

What is RAW feeding?

Raw feeding aims to give dogs and cats a natural, unprocessed diet appropriate to their digestive systems and as close as possible to what they would have eaten in the wild. The stomach pH in dogs and cats is much lower than that of humans, meaning they are able to break down raw meat and bone.

Closer inspection of various pet foods has shown that many contain added sugars, salts, preservatives, meat meals and meat derivatives however, Natures Menu prides itself on using only natural ingredients and never using any additives, cheap fillers or meat substitutes in its products to provide the best food for your best friend.

What are the key benefits to feeding your dog a RAW diet?

More and more, pet owners are beginning to understand that what they put into their pets’ body reflects what they see on the outside with regards to overall health, vitality, energy and behavioural tendencies.

One of the most overlooked aspects of raw feeding is the ‘back-end’ benefits it provides for pets. A raw diet is close to what they would have eaten in the wild and can be easier to digest and much lighter on sensitive stomachs, meaning much firmer and easier to pick up stools that are noticeably less smelly. With firmer stools, many pets suffering from anal gland issues have found a raw diet can really help to naturally empty the glands, rather than an uncomfortable trip to the vet to have them manually expressed.

Personally, I find that feeding a raw diet to my own dog is an incredibly satisfying practice. I can see first-hand the benefits in my dog’s vitality, health and wonderful shiny coat. I know he is getting only the very best food which he absolutely loves and thrives on.

What advice or tips can you give to owners who are new to RAW feeding?

Switching your pet to a raw diet can seem like a daunting prospect, however, Natures Menu has a wealth of advice and guidance available on their website, explaining everything there is to know about raw and natural feeding. The main thing is to be patient; we always advise a slow and gradual transition to raw to avoid any tummy upsets.

Responsible raw and natural feeding is key. I would suggest pet parents do their homework, and choose a manufacturer that offers:

  1. Safe production and delivery – Raw manufacturers should follow strict government guidelines on manufacture, storage, sourcing and bacterial testing. Natures Menu leads the market with quality handling methods, Defra approved micro-biological testing, raw material traceability, leading in-house microbiological protocols with all deliveries supplied in refrigerated vans. When handling raw, we always advise the same hygiene rules apply when handling raw pet food as they would for handling your own raw meat for consumption at home.
  2. Complete and balanced – Responsible manufacturers will ensure their food is balanced with the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals. Natures Menu provides ready-made meals in an easy to portion ‘nugget’ format which means all owners need to do is count out the number of nuggets required for their pet, defrost over night in the fridge and feed!

If your dog is a fussy eater how can you encourage them to eat RAW?

The best way to encourage a fussy dog to eat a raw diet is to slowly make the transition from their current food.  This can be achieved over a period of seven days and is easy to implement. As a guide, from days one to seven, divide the daily ration of food into 50% raw for one meal and 50% previous food for the other meal (feeding one for breakfast and the other for dinner). On day eight, you’ll be able to feed 100% raw for both meals. We would advise you avoid mixing two types of food in the same bowl if possible, for easier digestion.

At Natures Menu, we have products that cater for all types of raw feeder. We firstly have our Natures Menu Original nuggets and 300g complete meals containing 60% meat and 40% fruits and vegetables. Some varieties also contain par-boiled brown rice for a healthy carbohydrate addition. We then have our Country Hunter range, which are all complete and balanced in 80% meat and 20% fruit and vegetable recipes. This range is available in single, novel protein options and offers more unusual meats such as venison, rabbit and duck. The whole Country Hunter range is also grain and gluten free which can be excellent for sensitive digestion.

What other tips can you offer to owners to ensure their pets lead a healthy life?

Understanding exactly what you are feeding your pet plays a big role in them having a healthy life style and my top tip would be to always check the back of your pet food packet to see what’s really contained inside, as first appearances are not always as they seem.

Mental stimulation through walks, exercise, play, toys and even grooming is a big part of any pet’s life and can really help form a bond between pet and owner. I highly recommend treat rewarding toys and puzzle bowls to add some excitement and stimulation to all meal times. And finally, never forget to give them the love and attention they deserve.

For more information about Natures Menu and advice raw feeding visit https://www.naturesmenu.co.uk/advice-centre

Top tips for healthy skin and coat

Managing a pet’s skin and coat is one of the most common reasons a pet owner will take their dog or cat to visit the vet.

In dogs, it is particularly common for Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, Spaniels and Dalmatians to visit the vet with skin problems. As a pet owner you will want to help to calm your pet’s sensitive, dry flaky skin and look for a solution that will soothe and reduce the itching to help make your pet more comfortable.

Skin problems and irritation can be caused by a number of reasons and to complicate matters, your dog or cat could be affected by more than one cause. These can include fleas, food allergies and an acute fatty acid imbalance.

Common signs that your pet may be suffering with some sort of skin complaint could include:
•    Your pet may be moulting more than usual.
•    You might notice that they have thin or balding patches.
•    They could develop dry or flaky skin.
•    Their coat may appear dull or greasy.

Your pet may have all year-round symptoms, which could mean that they are allergic to something in your home, however there are allergic reactions that are seasonal. Outdoor seasonal allergens can include, ragweed, grasses and pollens.

A healthy coat should be shiny but not greasy and will be soft and quite smooth. An unhealthy coat on a dog will be dry and brittle and could also be greasy with a dusty appearance. There could also be a few bald spots and an unpleasant smell.

Persistent itching is not only stressful for your pet but can also cause distress to you as their owner. To help to maintain a healthy skin and coat for your pet, here are some positive things that you can do:

Regular grooming

This will help to remove loose hairs, keep your pet’s coat free from dirt and distribute natural skin oils, which help to make their coat shiny. Try not to groom them more than once a week, as this could lead to irritation on the skin.

Don’t over bathe your pet

This can lead to dry and sensitive skin. Be sure to only use animal specific shampoos, as human shampoo could irritate your pet’s skin.

Protect your pet from the sunhealthy skin and coat

Like humans, overexposure to the sun is bad for your pet’s skin. Pets with light skin and short or thin hair, such as white cats are more susceptible to sensitive skin caused from the sun. Try to limit the amount of time your pet spends in the sun and watch for signs of burning. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, there are sunscreens available for pets.

Food

Be sure to feed your pet a good quality diet. Foods rich in fatty acids, oils and vitamins can support healthy skin.

Parasite control

One of the most common causes of skin problems in pets is parasites and fleas. Prevention is always the best treatment for flea control. Be sure to treat all pets, indoor and outdoor, as outdoor pets can carry fleas to indoor pets. Consult your vet for the best product to treat your pet.

Fluids

A constant supply of water is important to keep your pet cool and hydrated, like us, your cat or dog requires water to maintain healthy skin.

Reduce stress

Stress can lead to over grooming. Understand what is causing your pet to become stressed and try to reduce this, if possible.

Keep your home and their bed clean

Regularly clean, provide fresh bedding and reduce dust in your home. Hoovering on a regular basis, at least twice a week, will help to get rid of any excess dust. This will include rugs, curtains and any other material that gathers dust.

Consider using natural supplements

Some pet supplements on the market contain high quality Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E, which naturally calm sensitive skin, soothe dry, flaky skin and reduce itching and scratching.

If you think your pet may be suffering from a skin problem you should contact your vet, who will be able to offer advice with regards to your pet’s health needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A guide to managing your pet’s weight

Obesity in pets is a common problem that can affect both cats and dogs. Like humans, our pets need a combination of a balanced diet and the right amount of exercise to stay healthy and mobile.

Managing your pet’s weight can be tricky as it’s tempting to feed them tasty treats or scraps from the dinner table. It’s often hard to resist puppy dog eyes but maintaining a healthy weight for your pet is important to ensure they lead a happy and healthy life.

According to the 2018 PDSA PAWS Report, 5.7 million pets in the UK are fed treats every day, with 50% of veterinary professionals predicting that pet obesity will have the biggest health and welfare implications in ten years’ time. Despite this, 80% of dog owners and 74% of cat owners stated that their pet was an ideal weight.

There are a number of reasons why your pet may put on unwanted weight, which include:

  • Over-feeding – it is important to regulate your pet’s food to avoid weight gain.
  • Lack of exercise – most pets need daily exercise to ensure they maintain a healthy weight.
  • Medical conditions – joint problems such as arthritis can lead to pets gaining weight when they are eating the same amount of food but not exercising as much due to the pain and lack of mobility.

What a healthy pet should look like

As their owner, it’s key to understand what a healthy pet should look like. For dogs, ribs should be easily felt and may/may not be seen with a minimum layer of overlaying fat. A clear waistline should be easily seen.

For cats, you should be able to see the waste behind the ribs, ribs can still be felt but with a slight fat covering. There will be a slight paunch of fat on the abdomen. There are common signs that your pet may be overweight which include: trouble breathing, unable to groom themselves, no definition, trouble getting around and constipation. Speak to your vet if your pet’s weight is a cause for concern.

Finding that balance of a good diet and the right exercise for your pet can be tricky. To help them to lead a healthier life, here are some positive changes you can make:

Diet

Simply feeding your pet less food could help to reduce their calorie intake, or you could feed them pet food that is low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in protein. If you are unsure what the best food is for your pet, your vet will be able to offer advice on a sufficient diet for your pet’s age and health needs.

Measure their food

To ensure you don’t overfeed them, measuring their food could help to reduce their calories. Don’t leave food out all day for them to graze as this encourages your pet to eat more. Feed them small portions at set times.

Limit treats

Although it may be tempting to give pets the odd little treat, any that they have should be included in their daily calorie allowance or reduced altogether. Also prevent other members of the family from sneaking treats and food from dinner plates to your pet.

Regular exercise

Keeping your pet active is just as important as a nutritional diet. Exercise also improves muscle tone, increases metabolism and helps to reduce boredom in your dog or cat. Your vet will be able to advise the right amount of exercise your pet should be doing depending on their age and breed.

Regular vet visits

Regular vet visits will help to monitor your pet’s weight and your vet will be able to advise on how much weight they need to lose or in some pets gain weight. Be sure to speak to your vet before you start any new food or exercise routine for your pet.

Multiple pet homes

If you have more than one pet be sure to feed them separately to prevent one eating the others food. Especially if you have both cats and dogs.

Leave human food out of reach

Don’t feed your pet any food that is meant for humans. Leave any human food out of reach as it is not only too calorific for your pet, it could also lead to digestion problems and cause your pet to be sick.

Don’t put your pet on a crash diet

Reducing your pet’s food and upping their exercise should be enough to help reduce any unwanted weight. Don’t put your pet on a crash diet or starve them as this could prevent them from getting essential nutrients.

 

 

 

The benefits of gut health for pets

The gut is inhabited by billions of microbes (microflora). These bacteria have a fundamental impact on the physiology and wellbeing of your pet. The benefits of a healthy microflora are not just limited to digestion.

Your pet’s gut can’t function properly without the trillions of microbes living and working there – called the gut microbiome – this ecosystem of bacteria provides a myriad of life-supporting functions that can help your pet live their healthiest days. There is increased awareness of the benefit of probiotic support for hospitalised and convalescent animals where microflora balance and the GALT immune response can be affected while animals recuperate.

Supplementing your pet’s diet with a high-quality probiotic and maintaining a healthy gut flora provides a wide range of health benefits, which include:

Supporting immune function

With so much of the immune system centred in the gut, it’s no wonder that the microbes living there have such a supportive impact on a pet’s immune function. Probiotics work hard to support the gut barrier, which blocks out harmful bacteria and toxins from leaking into your pet’s bloodstream.

Approximately 70% of the body’s immune Lymphatic tissue is located in the digestive tract, mostly in the form of ‘Gut-Associated Lymphatic Tissue’ (GALT). The GALT contains many types of immune cells that optimise the efficiency of the immune response. Studies have shown that having a healthy microflora stimulates this immune tissue. Therefore, a healthy digestive system is important for optimal immune support.

Healthy weight management

A healthy gut full of friendly flora can help your pet with weight management. Probiotics support blood sugar levels already within a normal range, help to encourage safety hormones and maintain healthy digestion, all of which can help to keep your pet from wanting to overeat and gaining unwanted weight.

Soothes sensitive tummies

Sensitive digestion is a common reason for pet owners to take their animal to the vet. Studies indicate that both cats and dogs experiencing temporary diarrhoea see significant benefits from taking a probiotic supplement when it comes to both recovery and prevention.

Easing stress

Both cats and dogs can experience stress in a number of situations. Probiotics can help the body to produce and regulate feel good neurotransmitters (like Serotonin and GABA) that can support a positive mood. Beneficial bacteria can also keep stress at bay by supporting appropriate levels or cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone.

Maintain energy levels

As they get older, pet’s energy levels can wane, which can be due in part to an imbalanced microbiome. Probiotics can help to support energy levels by helping your pet to thoroughly absorb all the nutrients from the foods they eat. Some friendly flora even produces B Vitamins, which are essential for energy production.

Maintain joint health

Painful joints can majorly impact on active pets and surprisingly a healthy gut can do wonders to support your pet’s physical strength. Some strains of bacteria produce vitamins that can help you pet metabolise calcium for strong bones and beneficial bacteria can also help to make enzymes that support the body’s overall mineral absorption.

If you are worried about your pet’s gut health, you should consult your vet who will be able to offer advice dependant on your pet’s health needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a happy guinea pig home

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut

Guinea pigs can make wonderful pets – they are cheeky and inquisitive and very talkative! However, they can live for 5-6 years, are a long-term commitment and do still have a number of specific requirements which must be met in order to have them as a furry family member.

The average hutch is not big enough for guinea pigs, they are active animals and need a large space to explore with plenty of hiding places. They require both a dark sleeping area and a light area with plenty of space to adventure, both well ventilated. The minimum size for a pair of guinea pigs is 120cm x 60cm x 45cm but the bigger the better. They should be able to access their whole environment at all times. Being ‘prey’ animals means they can be easily frightened by sudden noises, movements and possible predators – this includes dogs, cats, foxes and large birds. Where their enclosure is housed should bear this in mind – either outdoor or indoor with other pets around. If they live inside, they should be away from the television, other pets and loud noises. Indoor enclosures can be open at the top, as long as no other animal is able to get in and they cannot climb out. All outside housing, hutches and runs, should be fully enclosed and secure so they cannot escape as well as being predator proof.

Bedding can include newspaper lining, paper-based litter for toileting areas and plenty of good quality, dust free hay. For indoor enclosures, fleece bedding can be used to cover flooring, but it should be expected to be toileted on and chewed so will need washing daily and replacing regularly. It is advised that soft wood products (such as pine sawdust) are not used as they can be implicated in some respiratory and other health issues and straw should be avoided where possible as, although good for providing warmth, it can cause eye injuries.

Toileting areas must be cleaned out daily and the whole enclosure cleaned out at least once a week. Toys and enrichment for guinea pigs come in many forms and can really make your guinea pigs happier. Hiding spots around the environment canhappy guinea pig home help them to settle and give them somewhere to hide if they get scared. Hiding places can include tunnels, boxes and plastic ‘caves’. Generally, toys and hiding spots can be found in a range of materials from cardboard to plastic, wood to fabric and will all have the potential to be chewed so should be seen as disposable! Wood chew toys can be of benefit to help wear down teeth but a good quality hay-based diet should help avoid the need for this. Metal toys and toys with head sized holes in such as hay balls should be used with care – there are reports of guinea pigs becoming stuck between the bars of these when young.

Guinea pigs cannot cope with extreme temperatures – the ideal temperature for them is around 17-20°C. It’s advised they are kept indoors when the temperature outside is under 15°C – if this is not possible, make sure they have plenty of bedding to keep them warm. Microwavable heat pads can be used but must be removed if they begin to chew them. They must also be able to move away from any heat to regulate their own temperature. If the temperature is too high, they can overheat. This also applies in summer. They should not be in direct sunlight at any time. Non-toxic cool packs wrapped in towels can be provided in summer (again under supervision and removed with any chewing). Ensuring the enclosure is easily accessed will be important for cleaning, but also helps with picking up and handling your pet. Guinea pigs have a reputation for being good pets, if handled from a young age in the correct manner, they can be handled (under strict supervision) by children and rarely bite. Guinea pigs have a fairly delicate spine and can suffer severe injuries if handled incorrectly. Adults should catch and pick them up and for the child to sit on the floor to handle them, reducing the risk of injury if they are accidentally dropped.

Happy guinea pigs often do little hops and skips in their runs while adventuring – this is known as ‘popcorning’ and can be done at very high speed! Companionship is vital to a happy guinea pig home. They are highly social animals and live in communal groups in the wild. As pets, they need to be kept in pairs (or small groups) with two females being the easiest pairing. Two boars (boys) can be kept together but can be more difficult and it is best to introduce younger boars. Groups can consist of a neutered male and females or larger female groups. Traditionally, guinea pigs have been kept with rabbits, but this is not recommended. A small group of guinea pigs will provide a far happier environment. Guinea pigs can breed at a very early age and so boys and girls need to be kept separate from around three weeks of age. Unless they are neutered you may find you have the pattering of tiny paws – while this sounds very cute, there are significant health issues involved with pregnancy in very young guinea pigs.

Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).