Holidays for you and your pet in winter

Winter is a great time to escape with your four-legged friend not only can you get some fantastic deals but there is nothing better than snuggling up together in front of a toasty log burner in a cosy cottage after a long walk. Enjoy frosty strolls through magical woodland or wrap up warm and head for the beach which is likely to have few visitors making it the ideal place for a game of fetch.

A short winter break is the ideal way to spend quality time with your furry friend and recharge your batteries, Dog Friendly Getaways reveal some of the best winter destinations in the UK that both you and your pooch will love!

  1. Cairngorms National Park

Visiting the Cairngorms with your dog during the winter months gives you the opportunity to experience this magical winter wonderland at its most peaceful and there is still plenty to do. Explore pretty villages, and marvel at the scenic landscapes – a photographer’s dream. There is a wealth of wildlife to spot in the winter including deer, red squirrels, badgers and even Scottish wildcat and Golden Eagle if you’re lucky.  Take a trip on the Strathspey Railway with your best friend at your heels or visit the ruins of Drumin Castle at Glenlivet just remember to wrap up warm.

  1. Dorset

If you don’t like the cold and snow, a good place to enjoy a winter break is in one of Dog Friendly Getaways delightful seaside properties on the Dorset coastline. It boasts some of the most mile weather in the UK and there are more countryside walks than you can shake a stick at you will never be stuck for something to do no matter what the weather. Walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs along the Jurassic coast or get up close and personal with them at the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester (winter opening times – Daily 10.00am – 4.00pm) Visit one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks; Durdle Door or head to the National Trust’s Corfe Castle which boasts breath-taking views and is open all year round.

  1. The Lake District

Well worth braving the chill; the Lake District is a great choice for a winter break with your pet. The scenery is just as dramatic during the cooler months and you have the bonus of avoiding the crowds which flock there every summer. There is plenty to do with your canine companion not least the hundreds of miles of scenic walks and lake cruises which allow pets and are open all year round. Add to that dozens of welcoming country inns where you can warm up in front of a roaring open fire while your tired pooch enjoys forty winks at your heels.

  1. Cornwall

Winter is a special time to visit Cornwall where you will experience peace and tranquillity not normally found in the warmer months. The crashing waves and mid-winter sun make coastal walks a delight and there are plenty of cafés and pubs in the pretty fishing villages and bustling market towns which offer a warm welcome to dogs whatever the time of year. Why not take a trip back in time on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway where dogs are allowed on the vintage steam train for just £1, visit the Tamar Valley Donkey Park where well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome or if its raining explore the Newlyn Art Gallery in Penzance together.

  1. The Peak District

Arguably at its scenic best during the winter months the Peak District is a photographer’s dream as well as a doggie paradise. Picture snow-capped hills, frost covered rocks, the magical atmosphere as the sun shrouds everything in golden hues. Of course, your pooch will want to do more than just admire the stunning scenery and the good news is; you will be spoilt for choice here. Visit the Heights of Abraham, dogs are allowed in the cable cars (not in the café or caves) and there are some terrific walks nearby or head to the Crich Tramway Museum where you can both enjoy a tram ride.

  1. Wales

The ideal destination for some winter fun with your pet. Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons are even more magnificent with a dusting of snow and the seemingly endless walks will definitely get Fido’s bar of approval. Blow away the cobwebs with an exhilarating walk around the Gower Peninsula and watch the waves crash against the shore at Rhossili beach which is dog friendly all year round. Explore fairy-tale castles, take a ride on a steam train or visit the National Slate Museum and after all that exercise you will be pleased to learn there are plenty of canine welcoming country inns where your best friend can curl up in front of an open fire while you enjoy a well-deserved drink.

  1. Yorkshire

Winter festivals, cosy pubs with roaring open fires and hearty food plus spectacular scenery make Yorkshire a popular choice for pet-friendly winter breaks. This huge county offers the best of both worlds; miles of pristine beaches at resorts such as Scarborough, Whitby and Filey ideal for a game of fetch and a paddle if it’s not too cold. Plus, wild unspoilt moorland to explore and a host of dog friendly attractions. Step in the footsteps of the Bronte sisters, visit Whitby Abbey the inspiration for Dracula or stroll along through the elegant spa town of Harrogate. Whatever your pleasure you are guaranteed to find it here.


Don’t hibernate during the winter wrap up warm and head to one of these fantastic holiday destinations with your pet. Blow away those cobwebs with a brisk morning walk and recharge your batteries whilst spending quality time with your best friend. You will avoid the summer crowds and get a great deal too so it’s a win win! Remember though bad weather can make hiking difficult and potentially dangerous Look after your pup’s paws, dry thoroughly after walks and check for snow or ice between the toes, make sure you pack the right clothing and equipment and check the weather forecast.

Top tips for pet owners during winter

Managing your pet’s health through winter can ensure that they get to enjoy the season along with you.

Harsh winters can bring a number of challenges and stress for pet owners. With cold weather comes darker nights, which can prove to be hazardous for your cat or dog. Curious pets will want to investigate new sights during winter that they may not have seen before, it’s crucial to understand how to maintain their health during this period. Snow and ice could be intriguing to your dog and as the weather gets colder your pet might need additional support for their joints.

Here are some of the positive things you can do to help keep your pets safe during winter:

Keep them warm

To be sure to protect your pet from the cold, keep them indoors as much as possible. Dog jackets and jumpers could be used for walking your dog to help keep them warm. Short haired and senior pets could use them whilst indoors.

Bring pets indoors

If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Bring outdoor pets indoors during winter months. If left outside your dog could freeze or become disoriented. Also, don’t leave your pet alone in cars during winter, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold the cold in and can cause animals to freeze to death.

A cosy bed

Make sure your pet has a nice warm place to sleep. Senior pets can be more sensitive to the cold, raise your dog or cat’s bed from cold surfaces to prevent stiffness in joints. Add more bedding to protect from the cold and add extra padding for joints.

Beware of salt and chemicals

These are used to melt ice on paths and driveways and could be poisonous to you cat or dog. Your pet could pick them up on their paws when outside, which could irritate them. Clean their paws with warm water and cotton wool to prevent them from licking it off.


This is used in cars to prevent car radiators from freezing up. Your pet will be attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze; however, it can be poisonous to cats and dogs. Be sure to clean up any spills immediately. Consider using one that is ethylene glycol free, which is the ingredient that makes it both sweet and toxic.

Maintain exercise routines

Even though it feels colder outside, it’s still important to walk your dog and keep them active to prevent them from becoming overweight and maintain joint mobility. Take them for shorter walks more often to limit the amount of time in the cold. Your cat might also want to go outside less due to the cold weather, be sure to play with them inside to ensure they get the same amount of exercise to prevent unwanted weight gain in winter.

Bathe your pets less

Washing your dog too much during colder months can irritate their skin. Try to do it as little as often to prevent the removal of essential oils, which can increase the chance of them developing dry skin.

Dry skin

In cold weather, air in homes can become dry which can have an impact on your cat or dog’s skin. If their skin becomes dry it could irritate them. Prevent this by brushing your cat and dog regularly to increase circulation and improve their skin and coat.

Check your car

When it is cold, outdoor cats can be attracted to the warmth of a car engine. Before starting your car bang on the bonnet or beep your horn before driving.

Ponds and lakes

During winter walks keep your dog away from any ponds or lakes. They could be frozen over and thin ice may break under your dog’s weight. If they fall or jump in this could cause hypothermia. Even if the ice is thick, your dog could slip on the ice.

Paw care

After each winter walk, dry your dog and check their coat and paws for stones or hardened mud. Use warm water and cotton wool to gently clean between their paw pads and toes to prevent salt and ice from causing irritation. If your cat spends time outdoors, be sure to also dry them off and check their paws when they come inside.


Your cat or dog might use up more calories to stay warm, so you could increase their food intake to ensure they are getting the right amount. However, if they don’t get as much exercise from not going outside, be sure not to overfeed them. If you are unsure, consult your vet who will be able to offer advice.

Keep your pet hydrated

Your cat or dog can become dehydrated in winter, just as much as in summer. Make sure that they have constant access to clean, fresh water. If they have a bowl outdoors, be sure to keep checking it so that it does not freeze over.

Senior pets

In cold weather your senior cat or dog might need some extra care. Cold weather can aggravate joints, so provide extra padding and comfort to relieve joints in colder conditions.


How to care for ageing bunnies

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut.

Our pet rabbits are living longer as we learn more about how to care for them and keep them healthy. However, these requirements change as they age and we need to be able to adjust their care appropriately.

When is a rabbit senior? This varies between breeds. Larger breeds such as French Lops and Continental Giants have a shorter lifespan, being classed as senior as early as 3-4 years old, while a Netherland Dwarf may not be classed as senior until 8! The best advice is to class every rabbit as an individual. Regular checks should be made on rabbits at any age but these health checks become even more important as they get older.

Important things to check include:

  • Weight checks – ideally weigh and body condition score weekly and record this, allowing any changes to be spotted
  • Checking their bottom to ensure no soiling, soreness or flystrike
  • Checking the feet to ensure no soreness or open wounds, and trim claws as they can overgrow when mobility is reduced
  • Check incisors and feel around the jawline for any lumps and bumps to indicate dental problems
  • Check down the sides of the head particularly in lop rabbits to feel for any lumps potentially indicating ear problems
  • Regular grooming to avoid them ingesting too much loose fur or having excess stuck in the coat, especially around moulting.

Activity levels of older rabbits vary due to a general calming down of behaviour as they mature and can also be affected by other health conditions. Arthritis and/or spondylosis can affect older animals and is a multifactorial condition, which essentially leads to stiffness and inflammation of joints. This makes movement uncomfortable and usually leads to a restriction in activity levels. Typical signs can include a gradual slow down, reduced hopping (more ‘walking’), an unwillingness to ‘binky’, dragging legs and not using areas of their enclosure they might have before e.g. shelves, ramps etc. If you spot any of these signs it is important you take your rabbit for a vet check, firstly to get a correct diagnosis of the condition, but also to ensure that the correct treatment is started as early as possible to reduce pain and discomfort. The veterinary surgeon may recommend x-rays and lifelong medication might be needed.

As well as medical treatment, areas of the enclosure such as ramps and steps might need to be adjusted. Reduced activity may also mean prolonged periods sitting in one place, which can lead to pressure sores (pododermatitis) on hocks. Other factors which can lead to pododermatitis include rabbits being overweight and it is linked to specific breeds – Rex rabbits have a thinner layer of fur on their heels making them more susceptible. Providing soft bedding such as high-density polyester bed (e.g. Vetbed) can help to reduce the pressure and avoid issues.

The diet of a senior rabbit should still be 80% good quality hay, but the pellet food can be switched to a good quality senior variety – usually marketed from 4 years plus. It is generally recommended that an average adult rabbit has a tablespoon of pellets per kg body weight per day, this can vary with other health issues – speak to your veterinary team for advice. Being overweight as a senior rabbit can lead to issues with pressure sores as previously mentioned but also with grooming, leading to a higher risk of flystrike. Dental issues can be a problem for rabbits at any age and have often presented themselves before this point, but traumatic malocclusion can occur at any age. Any reduction in appetite or faeces output, change in food choice, dribbling, weight loss, overgrowth of incisors or lumps along the jawline should be investigated by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.

The same care should be provided for senior rabbits in extreme weather conditions, providing extra sources of warmth and insulation in cold temperatures and cooling packs with plenty of shade on hot days. Vaccination and flystrike prevention are still important in older rabbits. These visits can also be a perfect opportunity to get your rabbits fully and regularly health checked by your veterinary surgeon. Sadly, as our rabbits become elderly, we have to consider end of life care. While the decision to put a pet to sleep is difficult, if quality of life is affected to the point where the rabbit cannot behave in a normal manner without pain and discomfort, euthanasia might need to be considered. If you want to discuss this further, please contact your veterinary team who can help with this difficult time. We are lucky that we get to keep our rabbit friends for longer but need to ensure we provide the best care at all life stages.

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 exercising your pet in winter

In winter, like us, pets tend to spend more time inside, due to colder weather and as such may move less and get less exercise.

Ensuring your pet gets the right amount of exercise whatever the weather is important for their health and quality of life. During winter months if pets are inactive but consume the same amount of food, this could lead to unwanted weight gain. This in itself can lead to health problems, such as arthritis. In colder weather joint problems could become more prominent, especially in older dogs and cats. It’s important to keep your pets moving during winter to ensure they maintain optimum mobility, as well as a healthy lifestyle. Like us, when the weather gets colder your cat or dog may be less enthusiastic to go outside, but there are ways to help your pet to stay mobile this winter.


Embrace the cold

Most dogs are happy to go out come rain or shine. If you do take them outside on a walk, be sure to keep them warm. Some breeds can cope with colder weather more than others, such as Newfoundlands and Leonbergers. For smaller dogs and short haired breeds, you could use a coat to keep them warm.

Interactive toys

Interactive feeding toys are a great way to help your dog burn extra calories. These can also keep them occupied and prevent boredom if they have to be left home alone.

Make your dog use their nose

Hide your dog’s favourite treats around the house in accessible places and make them work for their food. This helps to keep them physically and mentally active.

Use your stairs

If your pet would prefer to stay in the warmth, use your stairs for an indoor workout. Put your dog on their lead and walk up and down the stairs. Be careful if your dog is older and has joint problems, they may not be able to climb stairs as well as younger pets.

Teach them some new tricks

Despite what many people think, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Getting your dog to perform new tricks and actions can keep them active and their mind stimulated. Use their favourite treats to encourage them but be sure to limit treats and include them in their daily calories if they are not moving as much.

Consider their age

Older dogs may suffer in the cold more than younger dogs. Bear this in mind when on walks or during exercise, don’t push your dog too much if they are struggling. Be sure to consider their age and ability when planning activities.


For more mobile dogs, you can use objects such as hula-hoops to get them moving. Hold it just off the ground and encourage your dog to jump through. Once they have mastered it you could increase the height off the ground. Be sure to give them lots of praise and encouragement.


Puzzle feeders

Use puzzle feeders to make mealtime a game. Make your cat work for their food, which helps to keep them active, as well as keeping their brain active.

Hide & seek

Place smaller portions of food around the house for your cat to seek out. As well as being better for their metabolism, studies have shown that animals enjoy their food more when they have to work for it.

Use toys to encourage activity

Use cat toys to get your cat off the couch and moving around. Laser pens, feathers, balls or anything dangling from a string are great to help encourage your feline friend to get moving.

Teach your cat some new tricks

Like dogs, cats can also learn new tricks. Use treats to encourage your cat to practice new tricks and actions. Practice for around 15 minutes per day and you should reward them within 1-2 seconds, so they associate the treat with the command.

Create a cat jungle

Cats love climbing up to higher spaces to observe their surrounding environment. Cat trees can be a great way to encourage your cat to climb and explore. They’re also usually made out of materials which encourage your cat to scratch.

Agility course

If your cat is particularly energetic and mobile, you could try agility exercises. These could include obstacles such as bars to jump over, or tunnels to go through. These will help to push your cat both physically and mentally.

Consider their age

Older cats may not be able to move as well as younger cats and may prefer to sleep more. Older cats may be less mobile and may not be able to jump as high as younger cats.

Always consult your vet before starting your pet on a new exercise routine. They will be able to offer advice on what activities fit best with your pet and their health and age needs.


Caring for senior dogs

On average, dogs live for around 12 years, but many live much longer as individual breeds age at different rates. Middle age for most dogs is generally considered at around seven years of age, but each breed can differ with larger dogs such as Great Danes and Mastiffs known to age faster.

Just like us, when dogs age they can suffer from senior moments and age-related problems, such as arthritis and reduced cognitive function. Senior pets should be monitored regularly to help maintain their health and wellbeing as they age.

Arthritis is a common complaint from pet owners as their dog ages. Joint function can deteriorate with age which can have a huge impact on your dog’s quality of life. Changes in a dog’s behaviour may also be attributed to reduced cognitive function. As they get older, dogs can have senile moments and owners might notice they fail to react to every day commands, as they previously did.

As dogs age, their behaviour may change and as a pet owner, it’s important to pick up on these changes quickly to identify the best treatment.

Common signs to look out for, which could identify if your senior dog needs extra support could include:

  • Changes in their eating habits
  • Stiffness when getting up or when lying down
  • Slowing down on walks
  • Change in temperament/personality
  • A change in their toilet habits/ soiling in the house • More aggressive or grumpy • Walking into doors or furniture
  • Failure to recognise family members
  • Whining/barking excessively for no reason

Common health problems for senior dogs

Joints & mobility

As your dog ages, you may notice a reduction in mobility. Simple tasks such as going up the stairs or getting into the car might be a struggle. To help keep your pet mobile, you could use a ramp to help get them into the car and prevent dogs from jumping up. Further support, such as a natural dog joint supplement could help aid and soothe stiff joints.

Sight reduction

As with humans, deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process and can occur over time in some dogs. Experts advise it is best to catch it when the eyes are just beginning to fail so that you can teach your dog to rely on their other senses.

Brain and mental function

Like us, as pet’s age they can lose cognitive function, which can result in cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). If your dog starts having accidents around the house or getting disorientated, it could be a sign that they have cognitive dysfunction. Keeping an eye on their behaviour is integral to spotting these signs early.

Canine obesity

As dogs age they may struggle more with their mobility, which may mean less walks and general movement. This could lead to weight gain. It’s important to ensure your dog gets the right amount of nutrients from their diet to prevent extra weight gain, as well as exercise.


This is most common in dogs aged 8 or 9 years old and can be hereditary and is more common in female dogs. There are some breeds that can be especially prone to diabetes, which include, Pugs, Toy Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers.

Keeping your senior dog healthy

Regular vet visits

Regular check up with the vet are important for older dogs. It will ensure your vet can keep an eye out for any new health problems and keep up-to-date with key vaccinations.


Although their exercise routine should be adjusted slightly as dogs get older. Little and often is recommended, but it is still important to walk senior dogs to keep them mobile and prevent any weight gain that could put pressure on their joints.


As your dog ages their diet may change to ensure they are getting the right nutrients. As older pets tend to move less, obesity is more prevalent Pet food produced speciifcally for senior pets tends to have fewer calories, reduced fat and more fibre.


Regular grooming is important for your senior pet to help keep their skin and coat in good condition. As your pet ages joint stiffness may prevent them from being able to groom themselves.


Make sure your dog has comfy warm bedding away from any drafts. They should have close access to the garden as their toilet habits may change with age and they might have to go more often. For smaller dogs make sure they have extra bedding during winter months to keep them warm and extra bedding can be used as padding for their joints.

Clip their nails

As your elderly dog can become less active, their nails can get long and could cause in growing nails. If you don’t feel con dent trimming your dog’s nails, consult your vet for help and advice.

Omega-3 supplementation

Strong research demonstrates that Omega-3 from fish oil supports cognitive function. Oral Omega 3 especially from DHA plays an indispensable role in naturally supporting neuronal membranes in the aged brains.

Retrain your dog

This can be done using the same techniques as with a puppy. For problematic behaviour issues, consult your vet first.

Mental stimulation/toys

Treat release toys can be beneficial for mental stimulation and to keep your dog active. Hiding your pet’s treats in toys and throughout the house will help to keep their mind stimulated and active. Think of innovative ways to enrich your pet’s indoor environment.

Maintain oral health

Regardless of age, it’s important to keep up with brushing your pet’s teeth to remove any plaque or bacteria build up. As your dog ages, their routine and diet may change so it’s key to keep this particular routine up.



Top tips for pet owners during autumn

With the change in seasons and start of colder weather, it’s important as a pet owner to be aware of some of the hazards that autumn can bring.

During this time, many pets may prefer to spend more time indoors. Maintaining your pet’s health during this time can ensure that they lead a happy life. As a pet owner you don’t like to see your cat or dog stressed or unwell, keeping a check on their health and being aware of any dangers during the autumn season can be important.

To maintain your pet’s health and ensure they enjoy the season wwith you, we have put together some tips for pet owners during autumn, which include:

Keep up with exercise

Although the weather may be colder, it’s important to keep walking your dog. This will help to prevent any weight gain, as well as stop your dog from getting bored. As the weather changes, you could reduce the length of their walks. Your cat may also go out less so be sure to play with them to keep them active in the house.


If your pet is spending less time outside or on walks, be sure to adjust their diet to match this. Speak to your vet if you are unsure about how much your pet should be eating at this time.

Halloween treats

Keep any Halloween chocolate and sweets away from your dog or cat, as they are poisonous and could result in a trip to the vet. Some sweets contain an artificial sweetener called Xylitol, which is poisonous to your pet.


Although they are not poisonous, if consumed in large quantities, they could lead to your pet having a sensitive tummy. Also, if using candles in your pumpkins, make sure these are out of reach from your pet and can’t be knocked over.

Reduce stress

During Halloween your pet may become stressed with people knocking on the door for trick or treat or if you have guests round. Make sure they have a safe place or den where they can hide or put them in another room during prime trick or treat hours.

Halloween costumes

Don’t dress your pet up in a Halloween costume unless you know it’s not dangerous and won’t cause them stress. Make sure the costume doesn’t restrict their movement or breathing and always supervise your pets whilst they are in the costume.


Autumn can be the start of fireworks season, which can cause stress for some pets. Make your pet a den to retreat to during the fireworks and closing curtains and playing music can help to block out the noise.

Fleas and ticks

Parasites such as fleas and ticks are still prominent over the autumn. Speak to your vet about an appropriate solution for your pet. Be sure to check your dog and cat for ticks regularly. Be sure to check your dog after walks.

Safety on walks

As the darker nights approach, if you are walking your dog early in the morning or late at night make sure you wear reflective clothing. You could also use a reflective collar and coat for your dog, in case they get lost.

Fallen fruit

Watch out for fruit unpicked fruit that may have fallen from trees when walking your dog. Dogs like to pick up anything with their mouth and over time the fruit will ferment and become toxic to your pet. If eaten it could cause your dog to have an upset stomach or diarrhoea.


As the weather gets colder, be sure to keep antifreeze locked away, as it can be attractive to your cat. It is poisonous to pets if swallowed.

Provide shelter

If your pet spends a lot of time outside, be sure to provide a shelter for them for when the weather gets colder or if it rains. As the weather gets colder bring smaller pets indoors to protect them.

Acorns and conkers

These can be poisonous to your dog. Be sure to keep an eye out on walks to make sure that your dog doesn’t pick anything they shouldn’t up. If ingested conkers can also cause intestinal blockages. Speak to your vet if you think your dog may have eaten something like this.

Make sure their microchip details are up to date

Be sure to keep your dog or cat’s microchip details up to date to ensure they are reunited with you quickly should they stray.


Getting to know…

The Labrador Rescue Trust – Paul Watson, Regional Coordinator & Trustee

The Labrador Rescue Trust was founded in 1988, originally named Labrador Rescue South West, due mainly to being based in the South West of England. The Trust changed its current name when granted National Status in 1993. This year, 2018, is our 30th Anniversary, and during these 30 years we have successfully rehomed in excess of 11,000 Labradors. Here Companion Life finds out more about The Labrador Rescue Trust.

How important is the work that you do at the Trust?

Every dog that comes into our care is special. A great deal of care is taken to ensure that the dog’s needs are met and that a suitable new forever home is found where the dog will be happy for the remainder of its life. We consider our work vitally important, in as much as it is essential that the unwanted (for whatever reason) Labradors are given the best possible chance and go forward to enjoy a happy, healthy and pleasant life. The Trust retains ownership of every Labrador that comes into its care and they are rehomed on an adoption basis. This ensures that the dog’s future is safe, and its welfare is our paramount concern.

We have a huge ongoing financial commitment to the Supported Adopted Dogs (SAD) – these are the ones that come into our care with an existing medical condition and therefore the new home would not be able to take out insurance cover for the said condition. Donations from the public are vital to help cover the costs of veterinary treatment and kennelling – our two biggest expenses – as well as the day to day running of The Trust. Our dedicated helpers and supporters do a huge amount to help with raising funds with events such as Fetes, Dog Shows, Coffee Mornings, Street Collections etc., all of which are necessary to help with the funds needed.

Why do you think that Labradors are so popular?

Labradors are a very popular breed, as they are seen as gentle, affectionate, intelligent and loyal, and this is why so many people choose them as the ideal family pet and companion. They are also a renowned working breed and excel at what they are trained to do.

What advice would you offer owners who might be considering getting a Labrador?

My advice to anyone considering getting a Labrador as a pet is to “do your homework thoroughly”. First and foremost is do you have the time to give the dog what it needs. Regular daily exercise, feeding with a good quality food and maintaining a healthy diet, not forgetting spending time with your dog and sharing your life with it. There is also the ongoing expense of regular parasite and flea control, annual inoculations and veterinary care, if and when required. If seeking to purchase a Labrador puppy, please consider adopting a Rescue Labrador. “Don’t buy – Adopt”. You will be pleasantly surprised by the result!

What reasons do people give when asking for your help to rehome their Lab?

People asking us to rehome their Labrador do so for a variety of reasons and often reluctantly, because they haven’t considered what options may be available to them. Advice is always given in the first instance, in order to help them make an informed decision before giving up their dog. Most dogs come into our care because of drastic changes in family circumstances, where they can no longer give the dog what is required or are simply unable to afford the ongoing expense of keeping and maintaining the dog’s welfare etc. Others are as a result of family break ups and simply cannot cope and if having to move into rented accommodation are not allowed by their landlords to keep pets. We also have welfare cases to deal with, which can be very traumatic, these are however in the minority, but we will always be there to assist.

There are other Labrador Rescue Organisations out there and should The Labrador Rescue Trust be unable to assist, for whatever reason, e.g.; we do not operate in a particular geographical area etc, we will always put a person in touch with a reputable and trusted Rescue.

Anyone wishing to contact The Trust should do so by visiting our website,

Obesity in Rabbits

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut.

Our rabbits are just as prone to obesity as other companion animal species and this is a growing concern.

How can we tell if they are overweight? What should we do to keep their weight healthy?

Unlike most animals, there is a lot of very good, and clear advice available to help ensure we feed our rabbits correctly. 80% of their diet should be good quality feeding hay – this is the most vital piece of advice to keep them healthy. The best hay has long stalks as well as being green and fresh, this will help to keep them a healthy weight but also aids dental health.

Muesli type diets with lots of different ingredients should never be fed as they encourage selective feeding, allowing the rabbit to pick out the high calorie treats (risking weight gain) and meaning their diet will be imbalanced. Pellet diets should always be used, trying to make sure one is selected with as high a fibre content as possible. Only 5% of their daily diet should be these pellets as most are given a bowlful, which is far too much. This means that a higher quality food can be afforded as it is fed in smaller volumes. 10% of their diet should be safe, healthy, green leafy vegetables, leaving 5% for healthy treats.

But how do we tell if our rabbit is overweight? The best way to tell is not always what they weigh on the scales and more their body condition score and the physical feel of them. Their bones should be easily felt without protruding or being lost under many layers. There should be no abdominal bulge or extra weight on their back end and they should not have a large dewlap at the front.

If you are unsure then you can always speak to your veterinary team who can help you decide if your rabbit is the correct weight. If they are overweight or obese the  rst thing to do is check that you are feeding them as per the guidelines highlighted. Do not dramatically cut their food – if rabbits stop eating they can go into gut stasis which can be fatal – but there are things you can change.

Ensure the diet is 80% hay but also ensure they are eating this hay! Some rabbits can be dif cult when it comes to eating hay but there are actually many different types of hay you can try including Timothy hay, Green Oat hay, Meadow hay and many more! Offering different varieties and seeing what your rabbit prefers is the best plan. Some websites will do small sample packs that you can try to see what you prefer.

Alfalfa hay should be avoided as a daily diet as it has much higher protein and calcium levels, potentially causing some health issues long-term. The 5% of the diet which is pellets should remain to ensure it is balanced but can be adjusted to be a high-quality diet pellet with a high fibre content. Which vegetables are offered are important – carrots, peppers and high sugar vegetables and fruit should be avoided as these will lead to weight gain. Green leafy vegetables, herbs, and safely and legally foraged grasses and weeds are a far better option.

Increasing their activity level is key to getting your rabbit to lose weight. Make sure they always have plenty of space to run and binky with permanent access to a large run, but you can also encourage them in other ways. Rather than giving them their pellets and veg in a bowl or placing it in front of them, make them work for their food. Treat balls can be filled with the pellets and they can push them around to get the treats to drop out. Pellets and vegetables can be stuffed into cardboard tubes and leafy greens pegged up on rope to get them moving more when eating. Both pellets and vegetables can also be hidden around their hutch and run to keep them moving. Activity toys are available for rabbits with sliding compartments and pieces to lift off and find food underneath.

If you suspect your rabbit is not the correct weight, speak to your local veterinary practice as many will offer free nursing clinics to give you help and advice to keep your rabbit happy and healthy for many years.

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 stress and anxiety in pets

A stressed cat or dog is a common concern and reason for a pet owner to visit their vet. Cats and dogs can react to stress and anxiety differently and each animal will develop the problem for their own reasons.

As a pet owner, it’s important to understand your pet’s behaviour and be able to recognise when they are not themselves or acting differently. The PDSA PAW 2018 report found that 18% of dog owners don’t think that their pet is scared of anything, compared to 11% of cat owners. There are many reasons why your pet may become stressed and at this time of year, fireworks can be a common cause of anxiety for pets. According to the PAW Report, reworks is one of the top 5 causes of stress for both cats and dogs, with 40% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners stating that their pets are scared of fireworks.

Common reasons that your pet may become stressed or anxious could include:stress and anxiety in pets

  • Fireworks, thunderstorms or loud noises
  • Vet visits
  • Travelling
  • Kennel or cattery stays
  • New pets or new family members • Multi-pet households
  • Separation anxiety
  • Moving home
  • Going on holiday

How to identify stress and anxiety in pets

To help to understand and reduce your pet’s stress and anxiety, there are common signs to look out for, these can include:

  • Trembling
  • Vocalisation – barking or whining
  • Scratching walls or furniture
  • Destroying property
  • Aggression to family members or other pets
  • Loss of appetite
  • They may choose to hide in an enclosed place like under a bed or in a den

Reducing stress and anxiety in pets

If you think that your dog or cat could be stressed, it’s important to tackle the problem and get to what is causing the stress. In some pet’s it could lead to other health problems, such as cystitis in cats. To help calm your pet during a stressful situation, there are some positive things that you can do, which include:

Create a safe zone  – Make sure your pet has a safe place to retreat to, should they become anxious.

Keep your routine  – Fixed routines can help to keep your pet calm. Any changes to your normal household routine can upset and stress your pet.

Distract your pet  – Use toys to keep your pet distracted and focused on something else.

Don’t shout at your pet  – If they do something wrong, don’t shout at them as it could cause further stress.

Plan ahead  – If you know a specific event, such as reworks or a trip to the vets could make your pet anxious, try to prepare ahead of the event.

Scratch posts  – Make sure that your cat has access to a scratch post to relieve boredom and anxiety. Stressful situations might make them scratch your furniture if they don’t have a suitable place to do it.

Multi-cat households  – If you have more than one cat, make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat. Ensure that they have somewhere to retreat to and get away from other pets.

Use music  – Play calming music if you have to leave your dog home alone, to help drown out external noise that could make them anxious.

Comfort your pet – Sit close to your pet and stroke them to try and keep them calm. Physical contact could help to make them feel safe and reduce their anxiety. If they prefer to be by themselves, let them wander off to nd a safe place to hide. Keep checking on them to make sure they are OK.

Training – If a trip in the car or being left alone causes your pet to have anxiety, you could train them to get used to these situations. Reward your dog with a treat and praise them when they respond positively to training.

High areas for cats – Provide high accessible areas for your cat, such as shelves or on top of furniture. This allows them to feel safe, while still being able to watch and feel included in the family.

Socialisation – If your dog is nervous of people or other dogs, training classes could help reduce anxiety during these occasions. Don’t lock your dog away when visitors come, as this will only add to their stress.

Stress & anxiety solutions

Natural supplements for stressed pets
Pet supplements, also known as nutraceuticals can help to reduce stress and anxiety for dogs and cats. The ingredients can have a number of significant bene ts to calm your pet. Make sure you get the right supplement/product for your pet, as some can take up to six weeks before the benefits are seen, whereas Vetpro stress & anxiety and Nutracalm are fast-acting. Other calming products on the market, include: Kalmaid, VetSpec Calm & Focussed, and VetHQ Serene-um.

Behaviour techniques
Your vet may be able to offer advice on behavioural management techniques, which could help to reduce stress for your pet. These techniques could include, positive reinforcement, advance of fear-provoking situations and situational awareness.

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and essential oils in a diffuser can be smelt immediately. Small batches of essential oils can help to calm and focus dogs during training as puppies, ease comfort during travel and reduce fear during thunderstorms or reworks.

Homeopathic therapy & flower essences
Homeopathic therapy and the use of flower essences along with other herbs has been used for medical purposes for hundreds of years. Flower essences are herbal infusions made from flowering pot plants. These can help to address emotional and mental wellness.

Plug-in diffusers use slow release technology, which can include cat and dog appeasing pheromones to help keep pets calm in stressful situations and new environments.

Anxiety vests
An anxiety vest applies pressure to relieve anxiety, which is something that has been a common practice for years. They use gentle, constant pressure on a dog or cat’s torso.

If you suspect that your dog or cat may suffering from symptoms associated with stress and anxiety you should consult your vet. They will be best placed to offer advice and the best course of action for your pet in order to provide the highest long-term care.





Top tips for pet owners during summer

Summer can be an exciting time for pet owners, as it can mean more time spent outdoors, enjoying the occasional hot days. As a pet owner it’s important to understand the potential hazards that summer can bring for our beloved companions.

Our pets love summer as much a we do, as it’s the best time to be out and about enjoying lots of exercise and fun. As pets don’t sweat like people do, it can be hard for them to stay cool in warmer weather. Dogs stay cool by panting, but if the air they breathe in is only warm, it can make it harder for them to cool down.

Here are some positive things you can do to help maintain your pet’s health during summer months:

Keep your pet hydrated

Always make sure that your pet has a clean and fresh supply of water daily. If you are taking them on a long car journey, be sure to take water bowls along to hydrate your pet during rest stops. If your cat spends most of their summer days outside, be sure to leave a water bowl in the garden if they can’t access one indoors.


These can be one of the biggest dangers during summer months. Always check your dog for ticks following walks, especially in wooded areas. During summer months check your dog and cat once a day for any ticks.


Never leave your pet alone in a car, especially in summer months. Cars can get hot very quickly in the sun and this could risk your pet’s health. Either take your dog with you, or leave them at home.


Some fertilisers and pesticides can be poisonous to your pet. Try to refrain from using them on your garden, as they could make your dog or cat ill if ingested.

Water safety

If you take your dog to the beach or somewhere near a lake, be sure to supervise your dog at all times whilst they are in the water. Don’t assume your dog can swim. Some lakes can contain algae, which is poisonous to dogs.

Protect their paws

Be sure to protect your pet’s paws from hot surfaces during the summer. Pavements and surfaces can get hot in high temperatures and could burn your pet’s paws.

Keep pets cool

Use a fan indoors to help keep your pets cool. If it’s too warm for you then it’s also too warm for them. If you keep the house cool via open windows, be sure to keep an eye on your pets to prevent them from escaping or falling.

Offer shade

Create a shady den in your garden to help your pet escape the sun. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water on offer – as well as water to use to cool off. You could use a small paddling pool in your garden to keep your dog cool in high temperatures.

Sun protection

Some dogs and cats can suffer from sunburn, just like us if we spend too much time in the sun. Pets with light skin and short or thin hair, such as white cats are more susceptible to sensitive skin from the sun. Try to limit the amount of time your pet spends in the sun. You could also use sun cream that is specially formulated for pets.


If you have a barbecue during the summer, don’t feed your pet any food that they shouldn’t have. This could cause them to have a sensitive tummy. Speak to guests and advise them not to feed your pets scraps.


During particularly hot days, walk your dog in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest time of day. The intense heat of midday can overwhelm your dog. Don’t over exert your dog.


Regularly grooming your pet during summer can help to reduce excess fur. It will especially help to reduce fur balls in your cat’s stomach.

Keep an eye on your pet

Keep checking on your pet and look out for signs of heat stress. These signs can include, heavy panting and excessive drooling. Your vet is best placed to monitor your pet’s health, it is important to have regular health checks with your local vet to ensure your pet is receiving the best possible care.

Ask your vet about any of the above or if you are worried about your pet’s health.