Q&A with Channel 4’s The Dog House

Wood Green, The Animals Charity – features on Channel 4’s ‘The Dog House’, offering a glimpse into how they match homeless dogs with hopeful new owners

As well as featuring on the popular Channel 4 TV show, Wood Green also rehabilitates and rehomes thousands of cats and small animals each year, as well as providing free advice and hands-on support to pet owners in need.

Sue Ketland, Dog Behaviour & Training Specialist at Wood Green answers our questions about why people should consider a rescue dog:

Why should people consider a rescue when deciding on a new family member?

Rehoming a dog from a charity like Wood Green is an incredibly rewarding experience. A good centre will guide prospective new owners through the selection process, to ensure the right match, and support them not only during the settling in period, but throughout the dog’s life. Dogs that end up in rehoming centres don’t always have the best start in life, so it’s wonderful to offer them a second chance at happiness.

As experts in rehabilitating and rehoming dogs, Wood Green are completely transparent and up-front about every dog’s medical and behavioural condition, as well as any ongoing needs they may have. Each dog is vaccinated, microchipped, wormed and neutered, and receives four weeks’ free pet insurance, so new owners have everything they need.

If you’re considering getting a dog, the first step is to think about exactly what you’re looking for in a new family member and how they will fit into your life. Check your local charities to see if they have anything suitable, but please bear in mind that many charities receive hundreds of enquiries for each available dog. If you aren’t able to rehome from a charity, it’s still possible to get a dog responsibly – just make sure that breeders are reputable and registered with The Kennel Club, or that you’re asking all the right questions in a private sale. At Wood Green, we’re happy to support people in their search for a new pet.

How important is it to find the right owner for the right dog?

Finding the right match is essential, as getting it wrong can result in huge emotional upset for both parties. We rehome around 700 dogs every year, and we’re really proud that 98% of these matches are successful – because we take the time to get to know every dog and new owner. The Dog House captures that magic perfectly. Not everyone gets matched with exactly the dog they expected, but in most cases it’s even better. On the other hand, it isn’t always meant to be – and it’s important to be honest and realistic when this is the case.

What are the key things the team look for when pairing up a dog with new owners?

We look for people who are patient, empathetic and listen to what we have to say about an individual dog. Many dogs at Wood Green have quite complex medical and behavioural needs, so they can take time to settle in and build trust with their new owners. It’s really important for us to find people who will embrace kind, positive training methods, and that people will remain in contact with us – either to keep us posted with their progress, or to allow us to help with any issues.

As for the rest, it completely depends on each individual dog and their age, breed type, prior training and prior life experience. We don’t exclude anyone based on blanket policies. Some dogs enjoy the company of children and other pets, whilst others don’t. Some dogs need lots of space and secure gardens to run around in, whereas others will be happy living in a flat with a daily walk to stretch their legs. Some are already quite well adjusted, but others need ongoing training that will impact the owner’s lifestyle. The personality fit is fundamental too. The perfect new home for a lazy Greyhound will be very different to a bouncy Border Collie puppy!

How do you prepare the dogs before they go to their new homes?

When any animal is brought into Wood Green’s centre in Cambridgeshire, our top priority is their health. We give them a thorough assessment for any medical issues or injuries, which could mean life-saving surgery or urgent treatment. Some pets arrive with us very anxious or scared, or with other behavioural needs. This is where the training specialists step in, to see how we can help.

We work together to map out an individual plan for every pet’s care – which can include diet, medical treatment, exercise, enrichment, training and fostering – to get them back on their paws. We don’t want to keep any dogs, cats or small animals at our centre for longer than necessary, but we need to make sure they’re ready before we start to rehome them. This could take days, weeks or even months.

How has the pandemic and restrictions changed the way you re-home pets?

Whilst the logistics are a little different, with conversations happening over the phone or email rather than face-to-face, the core rehoming process has remained the same during the pandemic. Prospective new owners get in touch with information about their set-up and what they’re looking for, and we’ll see which of our dogs, cats or small pets they could be a good fit for. If there’s a potential match, we’ll get in touch to discuss the pet in more detail and give the prospective owner the opportunity to meet the pet, and ask any questions they may have, before making a final decision. Throughout the past year, we’ve also continued to provide pet owners with free one-to-one behavioural advice, online training classes and a host of other services. These are available to all pet owners, not just those who rehomed from Wood Green.

 

Understanding separation anxiety in dogs

Stress and anxiety in dogs can be caused by a number of reasons, including being left home alone.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons for dogs to become anxious. We all love our dogs and enjoy nothing more than spending time with them. However much we’d like to spend 24 hours a day with our four-legged friends, it’s not possible.

Some dogs if left home alone for a few hours they can become nervous and this can be shown in a variety of ways. This includes, trembling, whining, destruction of property and sometimes aggression.

Common causes of separation anxiety include:

  • Lack of training
  • Lack of socialisation
  • Changes in the home/environment
  • Fears about something inside the home

Some pet owners may put certain behaviour down to their pet is just misbehaving or boredom. It’s important to understand what could be causing this behaviour before trying to treat it.

Tips to help with separation anxiety

Prepare in advance

Get your dog used to you not being around by leaving the room for a while. Either close the door or use a stair gate. Build up the time you stay away and always return with a treat. Make sure other family members know to give them space to get them used to time alone.

Start a routine

Start getting your pet into a routine for when you have to leave them. Get ready for work and leave your dog in one room as you go to work in another. Leave them with enough to keep them busy and keep checking on them to make sure they’re not getting stressed. Getting them used to this routine will help to reduce stress when you have to eventually leave the home.

Distractions
Make sure that your dog has enough toys to play with, which would be a great distraction whilst you’re out. Stuffed toys with treats are a good way to keep them busy and happy during the time you are away. You could also leave the TV or radio on for background noise.

Exercise
Before you leave them alone, make sure your dog has had enough exercise. If you are going to be leaving them for a number of hours, take them for a long walk before doing so. This will help to get rid of excess energy and they may sleep whilst you’re out.

Safe zone
Create a safe zone or den for your dog to retreat to if they are feeling extra anxious. You could leave a jumper or t-shirt with your smell on for your dog, which is familiar to them. This will help to comfort them while you are gone.

Prevent accidents
Make sure they have had the opportunity to go outside and go to the toilet prior to you leaving the house.

Close curtains
If your dog can get distracted by outside noise or you live on a busy road, close the curtains to reduce any distractions which might make them anxious and bark for prolonged periods.

Ask someone to check on them
If possible, ask a friend or family member to stop by and check on your dog, even if it’s for 10 minutes to allow them to go to the toilet outside.

Pet proof your home
If you don’t want your dog to have the run of the house whilst you are out, be sure to close doors and block off areas you don’t want them to go. Be sure to check the area/room they will be in for any hazards to be sure they are safe whilst on their own.

Don’t discipline bad behaviour
If your pet has misbehaved whilst you are out and caused damage or toileted in the house, don’t discipline them on your return as this could cause further anxiety. It could also lead to your dog worrying about your return home.

Try natural supplements
A range of natural pet health supplements are available from vets or pet shops to help reduce stress for your pet. Nutracalm from Nutravet is a natural fast acting supplement for reducing stress & anxiety.

If you are worried about your pet or a change in their behaviour, speak to you vet who will be able to identify the cause of this.

 

 

Top tips for pets during Springtime

As we step into a new season and the weather gets warmer and days get lighter, your cat or dog will be able to enjoy more time outside in the garden or on walks.

As a pet owner you will understand that it is important to ensure that your pet stays safe during this time to prevent an unwanted trip to your local vet. Because you can’t watch your pet 24 hours a day, there are some things to look out for to ensure that they stay safe and healthy during this season.

Here are some tips to follow to help keep your pet safe and healthy during the Spring season:

Chocolate

Chocolate is toxic for dogs and should not be consumed. Be sure to keep all chocolate treats away from your dog and don’t let them pick up any scraps from the floor or other family members. When you are eating chocolate, keep some of your dog’s favourite treats to hand to stop them from begging and prevent you from being tempted to give them some.

Cold water

Despite the weather being slightly milder, the water in lakes and streams will still be too cold for your pet. Don’t let your dog jump in, as the shock of the cold water could cause them to freeze up and struggle to swim or cause them to develop hypothermia. Spring-cleaning Be aware of household cleaning products and don’t leave them lying around the house for your pet to get. Commercial cleaning products, almost without exception, contain chemicals that are toxic to your dog or cat. To prevent any problems for your pet, you could try switching to non-toxic household cleaning products.

Vaccinations

Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date to safeguard them from Parvo or any other contagious diseases. Warmer weather and more contact with other pets could encourage these types of diseases to spread, so be sure to keep your dog protected.

Allergies

Just like you, your pet may need support for dry, itchy or sensitive skin, which could be caused by grass, pollen or even plants. To prevent your pet from scratching all through spring, speak to your vet early to lessen the severity and give early relief.

Grooming

Brush your cat and dog regularly to remove any excess hair that they will start to shed. This will also help to keep your pet’s coat free from dirt and distribute natural skin oils that help to make their coat shiny. Grooming your pet will also give you an opportunity to look out for fleas and ticks and maintain a healthy coat and skin for your pet. It will also help to prevent fur balls from building up in your cat’s stomach.

Bedding

To help maintain your pet’s healthy skin, be sure to keep your cat or dog’s bedding clean, as during this time they may shed more fur than usual. This will also help to reduce the amount of fur and dirt around the house.

Clean feet

During spring walks the weather might not always be dry and with rain comes mud. After your dog has been for a walk, be sure to clean their paws to prevent the mud from drying and getting stuck between their toes and in their fur.

Garden hazards

Be aware of hazards in the garden for your pet. This includes slug pellets, as they are toxic to your pet and could cause illness if swallowed. Some spring flowers are also toxic to pets and if swallowed could cause your pet to become unwell. These include, daffodils, tulips and crocuses. If you think that your cat or dog has eaten any of these, you should contact your vet immediately.

Flea prevention

Fleas can be all year round problem for pets and owners, especially during cooler months in central heated homes. It’s important to keep up-to-date with your pet’s flea treatment all year round and througout warmer months, especially as they venture outside.

Close windows

As the weather gets warmer, be careful not to leave windows open that your cat or dog can jump or fall out of.

Exercise

If your dog has been particularly inactive during the winter season, make sure you ease them back into their exercise routine. Start off slow to help rebuild muscle tone before engaging in strenuous outdoor activities.

How to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease in dogs and cats

Spring is nearly here and summer close behind. Apart from wonderful sunny days, relaxing walks in the countryside, fields and forests, there is a hidden danger lurking in these idyllic places for your dogs, cats and yourself.

Dr Margit Gabriele Muller

Ticks are a tiny enemy, just 3-5 mm in size, but can lead to major problems in pets and humans alike, here Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, leading vet and author details…

What is a tick?

Ticks are tiny blood parasites. In the UK and Europe, hard ticks, from the species Ixodes Ricinus, are mainly found. They are brown, black and reddish in colour. They suck blood from their hosts and can range from a pinpoint size up to 3-5mm once they have fully fed on blood. As they have eight legs, ticks belong to the arachnids, the family of spiders. Ticks require a host such as a pet or human to be able to multiply.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are commonly found in areas with grass, leaf piles, shrubs, underbrush, trees, and in the wilderness. In the UK, ticks are found all over the country, but the high-risk areas include Southern England and the Scottish Highlands.

How do ticks get transmitted?

Ticks are active when the temperatures start to rise. They search for a potential warm-blooded victim as soon as the temperature is above 4ºC. They either lie in wait in grass or leaves to climb up the legs of their victim or fall from branches. They love to bite their host in warm and moist body areas.

Bites are usually painless and therefore often go unnoticed. After ticks bite, they stay attached to the host’s body until they are soaked full in blood. Once they have finished feeding, which might take up to 10 days, the ticks have reached their full size and detach themselves and simply fall off.

How to check for ticks?

It’s essential to check your pet’s skin after outdoor walks. In dogs and cats, it is advisable to run your hands down the pet’s body to see if you can feel small lumps, especially in the neck, ears, head, and feet.

How can you remove ticks?

You can buy special tick removal forceps in veterinary practices or in pet shops. It is important to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and to pull straight upwards. The pressure on the forceps should be distributed evenly without bending, twisting or tearing the tick. Recommended things like putting oil on the tick are not suitable and should not be performed.

After removing the tick, you must check that no parts of the head or mouth are left inside the skin as all parts must be removed completely. The bite must then be cleaned with either disinfectant or soap and water. The tick should be disposed properly by drenching it in alcohol and putting it in a sealed container.

How can ticks be prevented?

In dogs and cats, the best and most effective tick prevention is the year-long monthly treatment with a pipette of a special topical tick and flea prevention treatment. This is administered directly on the skin in the neck area. It is also advisable to avoid high risk areas and to not to go on adventures in deep scrubs and wilderness and to stay in the centre of pathways.

In humans, long sleeves and trousers that cover the arms and legs completely are a good way to avoid any skin contact for the ticks. Insect repellents with at least 20% DEET (diethyltoluamide) that are used on the rest of the visible skin are a good way to deter these blood parasites.

What is Lyme Disease?

Black legged ticks from the species Iodex that are infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi can spread Lyme Disease to humans. Moreover, ticks can also transmit other kind of infectious diseases such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and tularemia to pets and humans alike. Laboratory tests such as blood tests can be used to detect the presence of antibodies to Lyme disease.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease and tick infestation in dogs and cats?

Dogs are more affected than cats. Symptoms usually develop within a week but can sometimes appear even months or years later and often no symptoms appear at all. Symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, tiredness and lameness. The heart, kidneys, joints, and nervous system can also be affected. Although ticks bite as single parasites, if a dog or cat have lots of bites it can possibly lead to anemia. A tick paralysis can also occur which causes wobbling of the legs, heavy breathing, vomiting and salivation.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in humans?

According to Public Health England, a maximum of 10% of ticks carry the bacterium that results in Lyme disease. An estimated 3,000 people contract this infectious disease every year in the UK. The onset of clinical symptoms of Lyme Disease don’t start immediately after being bitten.  Usually, symptoms develop within a week and can even appear after 3 months or more.

The most common symptom is a skin rash which affects 70-80% of patients and other early-stage symptoms can be like flu. Muscle and joint pains can develop or reappear after several months and even years.  Tick allergies and facial nerve paralysis on one or both sides of the face might also occur. If Lyme disease remains undetected for a long period of time, Late Persistent Lyme Disease may occur with serious and permanent nerve and brain damage.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

For both humans and pets, Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics that are susceptible to the bacterium. The antibiotic of choice is doxycycline and treatment lasts at least 4 weeks or longer. Supportive treatment for affected organs such as the kidney can be given, too.

Dr Margit Gabriele Muller’s book Your Pet, Your Pill: 101 Inspirational Stories About How Pets Lead You to A Happy, Healthy and Successful Life is now available on Amazon.

Five signs of heart disease in dogs

February is Heart Awareness Month and a great time for pet owners to think about their dog’s heart health.

To help pet owners spot heart disease in their dogs, Senior Veterinary Advisor at Agria Pet Insurance, Robin Hargreaves shares the top red flag warnings dog owners need to look out for.

We may be familiar with the signs of heart disease in people, but do we know how to spot the signs when our dogs are affected? Knowing what to look out for – leading to a faster diagnosis, can make a significant difference in the outcomes for pets suffering with the condition.

Robin explains some of the classic signs and symptoms to watch out for:

1 Reduced exercise tolerance

This means pets that are no longer able to walk or run the distance they once could. Often, dogs with heart disease will stop unexpectedly for rests on walks and refuse to go on as they usually would. This is much more noticeable in warm or hot weather.

2 Shortness of breath

We often identify this by counting the number of breaths per minute a dog takes when relaxed and resting. As heart disease progresses, the number will gradually increase. Typically, it should be between 15-30 breaths per minute – so more than this or a change to what is normal for your dog is a flag to have investigated.

3 Coughing

Dogs with heart problems will often cough. This is usually a soft non-productive cough, which is often worse in the evenings. The cause of the cough is either the retention of fluid in the lungs or heart enlargement, which often accompanies heart failure. The enlarged heart actually bumps the trachea, causing some dogs to cough when it is beating hard.

4 Fainting

Dogs in heart failure will sometimes faint if they suddenly become excited or overexert themselves. They can recover quite quickly because fainting takes the load off the heart, but any dog that appears to faint should have their heart checked by a vet.

5 Swollen abdomen

In people and animals, fluid retention is often a feature of heart failure. We have already mentioned fluid in the lungs, which is caused when the left side of the heart is failing. Fluid can also accumulate in the abdomen, giving a bloated appearance if the right side of the heart is failing.

Robin adds: “The good news with heart disease in pets is that our ability to treat it has improved enormously in recent years. However, the response to treatment does depend on an acute diagnosis, and sadly, some conditions do deteriorate much faster than others. The best management of the condition can rely on an accurate diagnosis, which will often require a specialist investigation by a veterinary cardiologists. Treatment will be lifelong for as long as it is effective and may involve multiple medications.

“Many of our patients with some of the more common conditions can now enjoy many extra months of an active and happy life, thanks to the right diagnosis and good heart medication. Always seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if your pet shows any of the symptoms above or you are worried in any way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A with TV Vet and Barking Heads Ambassador, Dr Scott Miller

Barking Heads recently welcomed Dr Scott Miller as their new in-house expert and two-legged brand ambassador.

Australian born vet and author, Dr Scott is the resident Vet on ITV show, This Morning, giving advice to viewers in the studio and presenting live and recorded animal items from all around the UK and internationally. Here he answers our questions about what to consider before getting a puppy and when to introduce a natural diet…

What’s your favourite thing about dogs and why do you think they make such great companions?

Dogs are a constant source of Unconditional love, and in these uncertain times they have been a saviour for many. Our canines are always happy to see us, want to drag us out on walks and are keen to keep us company even when we aren’t feeling great, having the special gift of being entertaining and joyful companions no matter what might be happening around them

Why do you think we’ve seen an increase in puppy buying during each lockdown?

Many people are working from home at the moment, seeing lockdown as the opportunity to bring a new canine companion into their lives and enjoy the love and companionship they bring. The concern is when life returns to normal and will new pet parents have time for their new furry family member at that point and how will pets react to not having their beloved owner around 24/7.

What should people consider before getting a puppy?

The four things to consider before getting a puppy include the COST of owning a puppy (not just the purchase price, but also vet bills, good quality food etc), TIME (do you have enough time to spend with and train your puppy), your HOME (is it suitable for a puppy, and if so what breed) and ENERGY levels (be sure to research the breed you choose to ensure that they don’t need more exercise then you are honestly willing or able to provide).

When should you first introduce your puppy to a natural diet?

Puppy’s like babies have sensitive stomachs but need completely balanced diets to grow strong and healthy, so it’s always best to keep protein sources consistent for the formative stages of their life. Adult dogs enjoy trying different types of meat protein and other foods, but this should always be done slowly, carefully and with caution to ensure any diet is completely balanced, monitoring your pooch’s daily bowel movements to ensure a change in food is not causing gastro-intestinal upset. Many pet parents are interested in reducing the meat protein content of their diets for their own health and the health of the planet, and consider doing the same when it comes to feeding their beloved pooch. That’s why Barking Heads have developed the amazing and completely balanced Plant Powered Pooches, to support pet parents who want to safely share an occasional ‘Meat Free Monday’ with their dog.

How important is good nutrition for your puppy/dog?

Good nutrition is of utmost important for your dog. ‘You are what you eat’ also applies to our canine companions, and with great strides made to improve the quality of canine diets and nutrition has come a massive improvement in dogs health and longevity, surely what every pet parent wants for their pooch.

What are your top 3 tips for keeping your dog in general good heath?

  1. Good quality food…you can’t expect your dog to be healthy, happy and contented without the great love of their life, food. Barking Heads put so much love and science into their diets that it shows in the incredible health and vitality of dogs that eat it.
  2. Exercise is so important for a dog as they expel energy, investigate the local area and socialise with other canines and people, keeping them healthy both of mind and body.
  3. Having a good relationship with your Vet…Vets are animal lovers who are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of animals, so developing a strong and trusting relationship with your Vet is crucial to ensure your dog gets the best care and treatment when they need it.

What is your favourite thing about working with animals? 

They all have their own distinctive personalities, come in all shapes, sizes and colours and are a source of constant inspiration and love.

Q&A – Coronavirus and pets

As a nation of pet lovers, many UK owners will not only be worried about themselves during the covid-19 pandemic, but also about their pets.

Whether you’re self-isolating with your pet or not sure if you can walk your dog, we answer some pet related covid-19 FAQs…

Can animals catch covid-19?

The main driver of the Covid-19 pandemic is human-to-human contact and there is no evidence to show that animals play a significant role in how the virus spreads. It is extremely rare for animals to catch Covid-19, but it is possible if they are in close contact with an infected person.

There have been a very small number of pets (around 15 in total) across the world that have tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19), including a case of a cat testing positive in the UK. From the small number of cases of Covid-19 in pets, it is thought that some pets can show some symptoms if they are infected, but these are mild and usually improve after a few days. There is no evidence that pets can transmit the virus to humans.

If you are worried about your pet during this time and they are showing any symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, breathing difficulty, a runny nose, weepy eyes or a high temperature, it’s best to contact your vets for advice as they symptoms could be related to other health issues and are extremely unlikely to be Covid-19 related.

Can I still stroke my pet as normal?

As long as you are healthy and have no symptoms you are still able to interact with your pet as normal. Although it has been confirmed that you cannot contract Covid-19 from pets, it is advised to wash your hands regularly before and after any contact with your pet.

Is my cat OK to go outside?

If you are healthy (no Covid-19 symptoms or positive test) there is no reason to keep your cat inside if they usually go out regularly. If you do have symptoms, try to keep them indoors if possible – only if they do not seem stressed by this change in their routine.

Can I still walk my dog in lockdown?

Yes, it is important for your dog to continue to get regular exercise. Government guidelines say that you are ok to walk your dog as part of daily exercise while respecting social distancing. Be sure to walk your dog on local routes and try to avoid contact with other dog walkers and if possible, walk your dog at less busy times of the day. Keep your dog on a lead and under close control around others and in public places and thoroughly wash your hands before leaving the house and when you return.

If I’m self-isolating can I still walk my dog?

If you’re self-isolating and worried about caring for your dog or other pets, ask someone if they could look after them during this time. You could contact your local kennel or cattery or a friend of family member to make sure your pet gets the care they need. If you are self-isolating you shouldn’t leave the house, so if you don’t have a large garden for them to run around in, you would need to ask a neighbour or family member to walk your dog for you.

Can I still get medication and pet supplies?

Yes, pet shops are classed as essential so will remain open during lockdown. Make sure you have enough essential in, such as food or cat litter, but don’t stockpile. Supermarkets will remain open if you need more. If your pet needs medications, check with your vet what services they are offering for collection or delivery. Always call your vets first as they may be closed to walk-ins during this time. If you are worried about your pet’s health always speak to your vet first.

Is it true that hand sanitisers/anti-bac gel is poisonous to dogs?

This is not true – hand sanitisers contain ‘ethanol’ (alcohol), not ethylene glycol. Ethanol (alcohol) can be harmful if ingested in a large quantity (i.e. an entire bottle), but it evaporates quickly and IS NOT HARMFUL if it’s accidentally licked in small quantities from your skin, or on your pet’s fur. Please do be put you off using hand sanitiser products at this critical time. However, it’s always important that you only use pet-safe products on your pet so we wouldn’t recommend applying human products to your pet’s skin or fur.

As a pet owner, what can I do to help prevent the spread of the virus?

Please follow the latest Government advice by maintaining social distancing (for you and your pet) when you’re out, and following good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands frequently, especially before and after leaving the house for essentials. We’d also recommend washing your hands after handling or feeding pets, especially if they go outside at times when you’re not with them, as this may also help to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. It’s also a good idea to avoid touching other people’s pets where possible, for instance if a cat comes to your garden, and if you’re caring for someone else’s pets, make sure you’re even more careful with your hand hygiene and try to keep a distance and consider wearing a mask if you’re going to be spending a lot of time with someone else’s pet.

Some information was taken from the PDSA blog. More advice on Covid-19 and your pets can be found at www.pdsa.org.uk.

 

Top tips for healthy liver in dogs and cats

Maintaining good liver health is vital for an animal’s general health and recovery.

The liver plays an important role in the body and has a wide variety of functions, including filtering the blood from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolises to support itself when processing medications.

Not all liver problems can be prevented, but certain precautions can help to reduce the risk of specific diseases. Some of the positive things you can do to reduce the risk and keep your pet’s liver health include:

Diet

Feed your pet a good nutritious diet. Avoid fatty dry foods that are difficult to digest. Your vet may recommend a low-fat, low- protein diet to help maintain your pet’s liver health. Feeding your pet, the correct diet for their age and life stage helps to ensure that they stay healthy for life and can thrive and feeding a diet that is not complete or is not the right fit, can lead to a whole range of both immediate problems, and those that take longer to manifest.

Water

Make sure your pet has plenty of clean, fresh water as they may experience increased thirst.

Exercise

Be sure to keep up your pet’s exercise routine to help maintain your pet’s overall health as well as support a healthy liver.

Key nutrients

Silybin is a bioavailable form of Milk Thistle Extract, which has proven bioactive properties. SAMe has been shown to help healthy liver function. Turmeric is a highly bioavailable antioxidant that helps to reduce free radicals.

Remove toxins

If your pets ingest any toxins or poisonous substances, the liver is often the first organ to be affected by this, as the liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood. Remove toxins from your pet’s environment. Look at a more holistic approach to their diet and health and ditch conventional care that can lead to the build-up of toxins.

Be wary on dog walks

Keep an eye on your dog whilst on walks to reduce them eating poisonous plants or insects.

Medications

Your pet may need medication to support their liver health or you may need to change other medications to reduce toxins in their liver. Certain types of long-term drugs for other health conditions can cause damage to the liver, as it is unable to process them properly and they can build up within the tissue of the liver itself.

Visit your vet

Take your pet to the vet for regular health checks and vaccinations to help maintain a healthy liver that control inflammation and supporting a better quality of life. Be sure to take on board and follow any advice from your vet. They are best placed to monitor your pet’s health and ensure they receive the best possible care.

Natural supplements

Consider giving your pet a natural alternative to help support optimal liver health. Some natural liver supplements on the market can also help to support the liver when it’s processing medication.

 

If you are worried about your pet’s health or anything above, consult your vet who is best placed to offer advice dependent on their age and breed.

A guide to preparing for a new pet

Getting a new pet is an exciting time, but it’s important as their new owner that you help to settle them into their new environment without any stress.

Whether you rescue a pet or decide to get a puppy or kitten, new pets are full on additions to your home and caring for them can take time and patience, but it can also be very rewarding. It’s important to do your research before taking on a new pet to ensure you can offer the best care and environment.

Before you get your new pet

Becoming a pet owner comes with responsibility and there are many things to consider before getting one:

Can you provide the right environment?

Is your home pet proof? If you live in a small one bedroom flat, it might not be the best idea to get a large dog. Consider your choice of pet and how if will fit into your home. Do you have a garden? Are there plenty of dog walking routes around your home?

Can you afford a pet?

This may seem like an obvious question but it’s important to remember the hidden costs that come with a pet. As well as buying regular food and pet essentials like cat litter or bedding, it’s also important to ensure you are able to afford any vet bills that might arise. We always hope that are pets won’t need medical assistance but if your pet needs emergency treatment, would you be able to afford it?

Do you have time to commit to a pet?

Welcoming a new pet into your home can take a lot of time and commitment. Do you have the time to dedicate to a puppy or kitten? Can you take time off work to settle them in? Many pets will take time to get used to their new environment, as well as training they may need.

Will a new pet get on with any existing pets?

Do you have any other pets? If so, will they accept a new pet into the family? It’s important that not only your new pet settles into the home, but that any existing pets are also happy with the change.

What pet will work with my lifestyle?

Some pets take more commitment than others. Dogs for example need to be walked at least once or twice a day – do you have time to do that? Will a large dog fit into your home? Do you have a garden or outdoor space for a pet to go to the toilet or run around? How will your pet fit into your work life? Are you able to work from home or will you have to leave them for long periods of time in the day?

Tips for when your new pet comes home

Once you have found your pet and are ready to bring them home, we share some tips to help settle them in stress free:

Register with a vet

Registering your new pet with a vet ensures it will receive the best care during their early stages. Regular check-ups help with the rest of your pet’s development, making sure they receive the essential vaccinations. Be sure to get your new pet micro-chipped at the earliest opportunity. This is now mandatory for dogs and could be essential if they ever escape.

Set up a safe area

Create a safe zone for your new pet to retreat to should they get overwhelmed. This could be an area where they can sleep, make sure it is in a warm spot, which is close to food and fresh water. For a new dog, you could use a crate or cage, which he can also sleep in.

Stay calm

Although it’s an exciting time, too much noise can startle your new pet. Be sure to allow your new dog or cat the time to get used to other family members and pets in their own time.

Set up a routine

Get your new pet into a routine straight away to get them used to feeding and exercise routines. This can help to reduce stress for your pet and will help them to fit around and get used to your lifestyle.

Keep cats indoors

Try to keep your cat indoors for the first few weeks to get them used to their new environment. If they go out too soon, they might be confused and not be able to find their way back home if they get lost. They could also get into territorial fights with other cats in the neighbourhood, which could make them anxious.

Burn extra energy

A new dog can get excitable in a new environment and around family members. Take your new dog for long walks to burn off extra energy and ensure they sleep well in their new home.

Introduce to other pets

If you have other pets, it’s important to ensure the introduction of a new pet goes well. To reduce stress to either pet, introduce new and old pets slowly to prevent any aggression.

Don’t leave your pet alone for too long

Separation anxiety in dogs is common. It’s recommended not to leave any pet alone for more than six hours a day. New pets could be feeling more anxious in their new home and need more attention in the first few weeks. Try to leave them alone for as little as possible – if you have to, start with short periods of time before working up to longer spells.

REMEMBER: It’s important to do your research before getting a new pet! Consider adopting a dog or cat from one of the many rescue centres across the UK.

Advice from the expert: Caring for Fancy Mice

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut

Fancy Mice are fascinating pets to own, both active and fun to watch, but have specific care requirements.

Fancy mice generally live up to 3 years which is a fairly short life span but still a significant commitment. They are very social animals and must live in same sex groups or mixed groups with neutered males. They are generally active morning and evening as well as overnight, meaning they are not ideal as children’s pets. They can be handled and if handled from a young age can be very settled however, they can nip when nervous and are very fast so again they are not ideal as pets for young children.

Diet is vital to keep mice fit and healthy. They must have clean, fresh water at all times. They are omnivorous so eat both plant and animal-based materials. Complete diets are available for mice and this can ensure they achieve the correct levels of vitamin A, magnesium and choline which they must have in their diet. They will eat seeds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables occasionally, but also mealworms and similar. These should be given as part of their diet and not extras to ensure they do not become overweight! Always check new foods before feeding as things such as grapes, walnuts and lettuce can be toxic or cause stomach upsets. Rather than having a bowl, scatter feeding is advised. Spreading the food around the cage allows for more normal foraging behaviours and works as enrichment for them.

Housing your mouse

One of the key things to consider when buying housing for mice is that they find it very easy to escape from normal cage bar widths! Narrow bar spacing is needed, around 0.5cm- 0.7cm is usually recommended. The top of the cage being metal bars allows them to climb which is normal for them. The base of the cage should be solid and easy to clean and disinfect (wood is not advised for this reason). They are sometimes housed in glass sided tanks, but it is very difficult to ensure proper ventilation in these cases, so it is not advised. While mice are small, they are very active animals who roam a large area in the wild so larger than expected cage sizes are recommended. For 2 mice, a 60cm x 50cm cage size is advised with 30cm height but the bigger the better! Mice don’t really toilet train but will have specific areas they toilet in more often, spot cleaning is possible but full cleanouts regularly will be needed. Mice are brilliant nest builders and providing them with suitable materials for building their nests is vital. They use it for temperature regulation, even if conditions are ideal. Hammocks and hanging beds can be popular to nest but also allows them to use their climbing skills. Nesting materials should be provided for them, this can include specially made shredded paper beddings and hay. A mix of different types to allow them to choose works well. Cotton wool and similar products are not advised as they can make mice seriously unwell if eaten and can also wrap around limbs and cut off circulation.

Enrichment is absolutely vital for mice, they love to be active, climb, investigate and chew! Enrichment can be as simple as a toilet roll tube, a branch or a piece of rope, anything to allow them to climb, nest, chew and be active. They will chew any enrichment added so always ensure branches or similar are free from pesticides or toxins in preservatives as well as a safe wood for them to ingest.

Handling

Handling mice will depend very much on how much time you put into getting them used to you. Rubbing your hands in the material used to line the cage, putting food onto your palm and allowing them to use your hand as a shelf will allow them to build a trust with you. Picking them up should be done gently around their body or allowing them to climb onto your hand, they should never be picked up by their tail as this can cause major damage and be very painful. Mice will bite if they feel threatened picking them up should always be done by and adult and they are very fast so lots of care should be taken!

Mice can suffer with some health issues that must be monitored for. Respiratory issues can be seen, and any wheezing or discharge should mean a vet visit. They can also be prone to getting lumps, get these checked by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible as they can grow rapidly and ulcerate meaning they are potentially very painful. Overall mice are very entertaining pets and can provide hours of entertainment but need a lot of mental stimulation and enrichment in order to be healthy and happy.

About the author

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).